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."
24 October 2014Sir Max clinches Mercury gold
Full marks for Bangor schooling
Milky Way on another planet
O'Brien targets another Trophy
Hurricane in hat for Morgiana
Buick happy as a Star is born
King ace back in the Old routine
Ballyalton out for the season
McCoy makes Chepstow return
Hutchinson sits out weekend action
Botti seeking Astrelle celebration
Balding sweet on Park chance
Walker hoping for Glorious victory
Times out to make Newbury headlines
Cheltenham honour leading figures
Moore keen on Adelaide chance
Stevens back for Breeders'
Johnson Houghton fined
Duke lords it at Carlisle
Southwell first for O'Brien
Fenton fined over steroids
Buywise on the money at Ludlow
Lockinge the big plan for Toormore
Stone ruled out of Old Roan
Wetherby likely for First run
Elm tops Trophy octet
23 October 2014Fenton guilty of drugs possession
Williams hoping for Max power
Harty biding his time with Lane
Clonmel aim for Baily
Jezki possible for Morgiana bow
Harrington expects Naylor to shine
Gosden a Fan of Newmarket scorer
Northern aces face off in Cumbria
Murphy plagued by shoulder injury
Dynaste charts direct Haydock route
O'Brien outlines Breeders' plans
Wetherby-bound Taquin to duck Power
High hopes for Adelaide run
Gilgamboa waits on ground
Dandino misses Cup date
22 October 2014December date for Balding memorial
Deputy outgunned at Fontwell
Whisky chasing Power spoils
Burke maps out Odeliz targets
Present sights set on Power prize
New category for all-weather champs
Moviesta has sales date
National aim for O'Neill star
Cheltenham on Ginge agenda
Lewis eyeing Dubai success
Henderson handed Ascot role
Panther given Breeders' go-ahead
Plain sailing for perfect Storm
Big Easy sets sail for Open fixture
Hall monitored for Giant Bolster
Stomachion in November frame
Hughes revels in 'sweet' success
BHA moves to address small fields
Connell turns to Heskin
Integral to race on next year
21 October 2014Storm breezes to Exeter victory
Moore concedes title to Hughes
Meade maps out gameplan for stars
Pele poised to tackle Hennessy
O'Neill sure of Taquin redemption
Heron seeking Great prize
Court to go on Trial
Saviour blow for Skelton
Dan makes chase debut
Moore waits on Grugy decision
O'Neill outlines That choices
Conn possible for Auction bid
Power team weigh up options
Bangor cancel schooling card
No rushing back for Long Run
Dynaste leads Old Roan contenders
Grands Crus retired
Exciting Berlais heads to Chepstow
Force handed Hong Kong mission