Willie Mullins saddles four runners in the Guinness Kerry National at Listowel on Wednesday.
The champion trainer claimed back-to-back renewals of the prestigious three-mile handicap with Euro Leader and Bothar Na in 2005 and 2006, but has not managed to add to his tally since in a race that now carries a total prize fund of 200,000 euro.
His chief contender this year appears to be the JP McManus-owned Blazer, who reverts to the larger obstacles after filling the runner-up spot behind stablemate Sharjah in the Galway Hurdle over two miles.
The other Mullins-trained contenders are Haymount, Saturnas and Townshend.
Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father, said: “Blazer ran a great race in the Galway Hurdle. The plan was actually to run in the Galway Plate, but he didn’t get in.
“He doesn’t have much form over the trip. Most of his best form is over two miles, so that is a question mark, but we think he’s well handicapped and he seems in good form going into the race.
“The other three were all a bit disappointing in Galway. It was a big ask for Saturnas in the Galway Plate as it was only his fifth run over fences, but hopefully that experience will stand to him.
“We always felt a race like this was within Haymount’s grasp, but he was off the track for a year before Galway and he’ll need to jump better,
“Townshend is the same. He’s got plenty of ability, but he’s a bit inconsistent.”
Mullins’ title rival Gordon Elliott has trained the last two winners of the Kerry National in Wrath Of Titans and Potters Point.
The Cullentra handler has another strong hand, with Galway Plate third Jury Duty and Timiyan both in the maximum field of 18, while Rogue Angel and Thunder And Roses are both waiting in the wings as reserves.
Peter Fahey has declared the high-class Peregrine Run and last year’s third Bay Of Freedom, but warns the former is far from certain to line up.
Fahey said: “He came out of his last run over hurdles very well, but we could have done without the rain and unless it dries out he probably won’t run.
“It’s frustrating as this has been the plan since Galway. Hopefully it dries out and if it does, then he’d have to have a great chance.
“There are no issues with the ground for Bay Of Freedom and we’re putting blinkers on him for the first time.
“He was third in the race last year and won his beginners’ chase in Listowel as well, so he loves it round there.
“His form can be a bit in and out, but we think we’ve got him right and I’d expect him to run a very good race.”
The last British-trained winner of the race was Ferdy Murphy’s Macs Supreme in 2000 and three have crossed the Irish Sea this time around.
Neil Mulholland’s recent Worcester winner Shantou Village is joined by Kerry Lee’s Bishops Road and Dell’ Arca from David Pipe’s yard.
Mulholland said: “He travelled over at the weekend and travelled over well. We’re very happy with him.
“They’ve had a bit of rain and it would be better for us if it dried out. We’ll see what happens.
“There’s a lot of prize-money on offer, he’s in good form and we’re putting cheek pieces on him, just to help him concentrate.”
Other leading hopes include Noel Meade’s Galway Plate fourth Snow Falcon and Joseph O’Brien’s mare Slowmotion.
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