Cerberus, a useful maiden on the Flat, was beaten a neck by A Wave of The Sea on his hurdles debut when the pair met at Punchestown in October but he might be able to reverse the form on 4 lb better terms.
Both trained by Joseph O’Brien, the stablemates have won by wide margins since and are expected to fight out the finish.
This is a red-hot novice hurdle, featuring some exciting prospects, but Envoi Allen is expected to pass the test with flying colours. He cost £400,000 after winning his point but justified that purchase with an unbeaten campaign in bumpers, winning four times, most notably the Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival.
He made the perfect start over hurdles at Down Royal, jumping well and quickening clear to beat a subsequent winner with loads in hand, and he is a top-class talent. He can maintain his unbeaten record.
Samcro, a dual Grade 1-winning novice hurdler, failed to meet expectations last season but he returned in style at Down Royal, brushing his rivals aside to make a successful chasing debut.
That suggested he remains with the potential to go right to the very top over fences, and he is not taken on lightly. However, he must concede 8 lb to the four-year-old Fakir d’Oudairies, who looked a natural when winning at Navan and should appreciate this step up to two and a half miles.
Fakir d’Oudairies holds rock-solid claims and he edges the vote in a stellar edition of this Grade 1.
Wrong Direction may be 4 lb out of the weights but he still has plenty to recommend him. He was beaten only narrowly on his return in a hunter chase at Cork recently, highlighting he is in good heart, and he should appreciate this stiffer test of stamina.
Ask Susan looks well treated and is an obvious threat, but her stamina for this test is a question mark.
Honeysuckle has won all five of her starts, including four at this track, and she has looked something out of the ordinary. A rival has yet to get within three lengths of her and she can pull out more if it’s required.
Apple’s Jade has won this contest for the last three years but turned in a lack-lustre effort on her reappearance and may struggle to repel the exciting Honeysuckle.
This is a competitive handicap hurdle and many can be given a chance, but Ciel de Neige makes most appeal having shaped with abundant promise in the Boodles Handicap Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival on his first start for Willie Mullins.
He made good headway to get into a challenging position but just lacked the speed of the front pair and had to settle for an encouraging third. The four-year-old can do much better for this yard and is one to keep on side.
Ferny Hollow was snapped up for £300,000 after winning his point in good style and he is of obvious interest having joined Willie Mullins’ powerhouse stable. Mullins has an impressive record with bumper debutants and looks to have a good prospect on his hands with Ferny Hollow.
*Prices correct at time of publishing