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."
22 December 2014Master handed Festival aim
Gowran goal for Djakadam
Nicholls retain Zarkandar faith
Monbeg team wait on jockey plans
Goodwood announce Qatar deal
High hopes for Cue
Games ready for Challow date
Condon not appealing whip ban
Mogol makes it look easy
Derby hero Chaparral put down
Saphir adds sparkle to Feltham
Mullins star among Christmas seven
Walsh thrilled with Sceaux spin
February return likely for That
Lough still in Lexus frame
Milan primed for Chepstow return
21 December 2014Billy fine after Ascot spill
Hanlon hoping Cyclone strikes
Henderson pleased with big guns
Mulholland serves up Master-class
Bayan bags big Ascot prize
Broadway proves a show-stopper
Three Long Walks for super Sivola
Queen wears Listed crown
Nicholls strikes with Saint
Sceaux puts in impressive show
Silvi the star turn in King George
20 December 2014Sceaux puts in impressive show
Geraghty enthused by Bobs work
Walsh pain at Vautour defection
Billy puffing his chest out again
Master back in the spotlight
Grugy in line to start cantering
Newland seeks more from Re
Prize money boost in HRI initiative
Zig zips to impressive victory
New steroids policy delayed
Serge states Supreme case
Exciting Sceaux out at Fairyhouse
Firebird skips National service
19 December 2014Martin readying big guns
Hobbs on Garde at Ascot
Fry excited by Activial chance
The New One in Haydock return
Reve camp not expecting a hat-trick
King issues Chatez Triumph warning
Bolger searching for Mossey key
King weighs up Karezak options
Henderson hoping Bobs makes Lexus
Simonsig camp play the long game
In-form Mole buries Exeter rivals
Sedgefield hit with heavy fine
Star names check in for Ryanair
Bobs revved up for Lexus repeat
Knott disqualified for three years
Geraghty braced for power Serge
Geraghty excited by Josses return
Activial stars in Ladbroke field