Nichols leads the way
Willie Mullins had to change his plans for tomorrow's Morgiana Hurdle following setbacks for Annie Power and Faugheen but the champion trainer still dominates as he looks for a sixth consecutive win in the race.
Last year's winner Nichols Canyon will now lead the Mullins challenge as he is responsible for three of the five runners with Jer's Girl and Triumph Hurdle winner Ivanovich Gorbatov completing in the quintet.
The Hatton's Grace at Fairyhouse would look the next obvious target for either Annie Power or Faugheen with Vroum Vroum Mag also due to begin her season shortly.
Mullins said yesterday; "Annie worked bad during the week. I just wasn't happy with her and I want to see how she is over the weekend.
"Faugheen has a foot bruise and we can't do anything with him until that clears up.
"It's bad timing, (but) hopefully it's not anything more than that."
Despite Ivanovich Gorbatov's impressive Triumph Hurdle success, his return to action at Naas earlier in the month was slightly disappointing and it wasn't a massive surprise to see owner JP McManus' retained rider Barry Geraghty opt for Jer's Girl instead.
The two-time Grade One winning novice last season, will step into open company for the first time on Sunday having missed her intended engagement at Navan last weekend.
Her trainer, Gavin Cromwell, said; "Jer's Girl is in good form and I've been happy with her. Even taking out some of Willie Mullins' entries, it still looks a very good race and Nichols Canyon is a very good horse.
"My filly stays further but she's not slow so two-miles on soft ground should be ideal for her and she's as fit as I can get her at home. We are looking forward to it."
When winning the race last year, Nichols Canyon was causing an upset when turning over stable companion Faugheen, but the six-year-old is likely to be odds on for tomorrow's renewal and should justify his place in the market.
Punchestown is full of high class action over the weekend with Landofhopeandglory setting the bar high in the opening race today at 12pm, and Senewalk will make his hurdling debut later today too.
He is already second favourite for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle and owner Rich Ricci said of him earlier in the month; "He looks a two-miler and if we can get a clear run with him hopefully he will be near the top of the pecking order come March."
Mall Dini, Coney Island and Woodland Opera feature in a fascinating beginners chase today, while tomorrow Identity Thief heads up the supporting card in the Craddockstown Chase.