Willie Mullins takes away his first real big gun in the new winter campaign when the very exciting footpad returns to action on Naas on Saturday.
With ground conditions that finally begin to ease, Mullins will not waste time on the Footpad for Grade Three Poplar Square Chase without a doubt hope it will not give a result as Samcro's shock defeat to Gordon Elliott a week ago.
But the appearances of perhaps the most exciting young horses in the two most powerful yards in the country reflect how the National Hunt game's great artillery is released.
Elliott runs ten horses on his local Navan track on Sunday. Certainly, it is when he drove 11 in Troytown Chase alone a few years ago, although the ten include another real star of the winter game in Apple's Jade.
The hugely popular jumper will try to repeat her success last year in Lismullen Hurdle when she starts back to possibly recover the Mares Hurdle crown in Cheltenham in March.
On the same card there may be an Elliott-Mullin's face off in The Auction Novice Hurdle where Felix Desjy, already a 20-1 shot to Supreme in Cheltenham, tackles a pair of Mullins runners, including Quick Grabim.
They are among a handful of Mullins declarations for Navan, but these are the five horses that the master teacher sends to Naas who will get the most attention with particular focus on Footpad.
He had a perfect five-of-five novice campaign that included Arkle in Cheltenham – and the steeplechas world is Footpads oysters are evident from Cheltenham's ante-post betting.
He is 4-1 to break Altior for the Champion Chase crown, favorite to land the Inter Milan title in Ryanair, and as low as 12-1 for the Gold Cup.
Mullins has obviously not committed anything, although such speculation may seem too early if he can not win on Saturday.
Footpad has over 50 lengths in hand in Arkle shape against the welcome English raider Saint Calvados. He travels in search of soft conditions but also meets a task maybe beyond any horse this season when he tries to beat Footpad.
"We saw this race, conditions fit him very well, and then" Mr. Footpad "pops up!" Said his coach Harry Whittintgon ruefully.
"He did well and worked very well during the week," Mullins reported on Friday. "It's a nice race to get him back and forth on the track. A second season beginner this is a great starting point."
The second grade three on Naas is Fisher Lane Hurdle for four year olds where Saldier – a 33-1 shot in Champion Hurdle betting – is Ruby Walsh's choice from a pair of Mullins top flightmen.
Bacardys is another Grade One winner over obstacles, but proved to be a bitter disappointment in two beginner hunting starting last season. Mullins gives him a new shot on the major obstacles of a novice Chase who also includes some second Now and the newcomer Discorama who looks interesting.
Joseph O & Brien has ten dozen weekend declarations on a home page with a dinner start at Naas. But the offer of O & B's ambitions extends to Melbourne just over six hours before the Irish Derby hero Latrobe erases the Flemington for $ 2 million Mackinnon Stakes.
Mark Zahra rides Colt in the 10-furlong Group One (off at 5.55 Irish time) which includes last weekend's Victoria Derby winner Extra Brut and Godolphins Blair House.
Tuesday's Melbourne Cup victory for Cross Counter was Godolphin's fourth Group One win at the Victoria Spring Carnival that turns up on Saturday.
Aidan & Brien will try to finish it by raising four in $ 1 million VRC Sprint (by at 5.10.) Ryan Moore goes back with US Navy Flag and joins Spirit of Valor, Intelligence Cross and Fleet Review.