Willie Mullins admits it is impossible to choose between Blood Cotil and Diakali as his two star four-year-olds lock horns in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown.
Blood Cotil bolted up on his Irish debut at Fairyhouse in November and was a comfortable winner of a Grade Two over this weekend's course and distance over Christmas, while Diakali has been similarly impressive on his two appearances at Gowran and Punchestown.
Mullins said: "The handicapper has them on identical ratings (140) and it is very difficult to choose between them. Even in the yard here we have Diakali fans and Blood Cotil fans, so it will be interesting to find out which is better. You don't mind running them against each other so much in Grade One races."
The biggest threat to the duo is perhaps the Dessie Hughes-trained Our Conor, a winner at Navan and Fairyhouse over timber so far.
Hughes said: "He's fit and well and hopefully he'll run a big race. I think they are calling the ground on the hurdle track soft, yielding in places, and I'd say that will be the best ground he has run on over hurdles so far. That will suit him.
"It's a nice race, as you would expect for a Grade One, and I'm sure we'll all learn a lot."
John Ferguson's British raider Ruacana is also unbeaten in two jumping starts and has already struck at the highest level, having landed Chepstow's Finale Hurdle a month ago.
Ferguson said: "He's a Grade One winner already so you are limited as to where you can go with a horse like that. He's as tough as teak, he's in great form and I'm hoping he'll put up a good display."
Gordon Elliott's Flaxen Flare was some 28 lengths behind Diakali at Punchestown last month, but the trainer is hoping a sounder surface can help his charge get closer this time around.
Elliott said: "He's in good form, but it's a very competitive race and the more the ground dries out the better for him. The ground was very soft the last day at Punchestown and it didn't suit him. He wants better ground."
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