Ross O'Sullivan expects Baie Des Iles to put up a staunch defence of her crown in the BoyleSports Grand National Trial at Punchestown on Sunday.
The seven-year-old claimed her second victory at the Kildare circuit in this three-and-a-half-mile contest 12 months ago, which has this year been doubled in prize-money to €100,000.
She has been well beaten on her two previous starts this season, one of which was over hurdles, but O'Sullivan is expecting her to show her true colours back over the marathon distance.
Baie Des Iles will be ridden by her regular partner Katie Walsh, the trainer's wife.
O'Sullivan said: "The weights have gone up and she has 11st 9lb on her back, which is a bit of a worry, but she's in good old form at home.
"The ground is ideal and she's won twice in Punchestown, so she obviously likes the trip and the track.
"It looks a strong race this year. Last year it was a €50,000 race and this year it's worth €100,000, so it's only natural the entries are a bit stronger.
"If there's something down the bottom of the weights that's well-in, that would be the worry, but we can only worry about our mare and we're very happy with her."
The 20-strong field is headed by the Noel Meade-trained Road To Riches.
It is nearly three years since the dual Grade One winner finished third in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and his powers appear to be on the wane, but his mark has fallen accordingly.
Meade said: "We're stepping him up in trip to try and give him a chance.
"The ground will be against him, but he seems in very good form and we're hoping he'll show a bit more spark."
The Tu Va handler also saddles Wounded Warrior, who ran his best race in a long time when runner-up in the Thyestes Chase at Gowran Park less than three weeks ago.
Meade added: "If Wounded Warrior reproduces his last run then he'll have a chance. He loves soft ground."
Willie Mullins is also double-handed, with Childrens List appearing the number one hope for the champion trainer after finishing a close second on his only previous start this season at Limerick in October.
Stable companion Isleofhopendreams has been pulled up on his last two appearances.
Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father, said: "Childrens List has plenty of weight and some of his best form is on good ground, so that is a worry.
"Having said that, it is a €100,000 race and he deserves to take his chance.
"We're expecting better from Isleofhopendreams. He's won around the track over hurdles and it was probably a big ask running him in the Thyestes on only his second run over fences.
"He has a nice racing weight and if his lack of experience doesn't count against him, he might have an each-way chance."
Gordon Elliott has a typically strong hand. The Cullentra handler runs Thyestes third Space Cadet, the fifth home Woods Well and the sixth home Out Sam, as well as Folsom Blue, who shaped encouragingly over hurdles at Sandown last weekend.
Liz Doyle is anticipating a bold show from Without Limites, who appears well placed in the weights with 10st 7lb to carry.
"He's in good form and he has a lot less weight on his back than the last day, which is a help," said Doyle.
"I was looking back through the winners of the race and I think only one horse in the last 15 years has won this race with more than 11 stone on their back and that was Chelsea Harbour (2008). Heavy ground and heavy weights don't tend to love each other and hopefully that trims it down a bit.
"We don't know for sure but I think he'll stay and he jumps well and he'll love the ground.
"With the weight he's got, he has the right sort of profile to run well in a race like this."
Other leading hopes include the Pat Kelly-trained Mall Dini and Forever Gold from Edward Cawley's yard.
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