The Willie Mullins juggernaut rolled into Fairyhouse yesterday where the champion trainer again saddled a double with two impressive maiden hurdle winners and he also firmed up plans for more of his top class in-mates this weekend.
Punchestown Champion Bumper winner Shaneshill confirmed his Grade One bumper form by easily accounting for the field in the 2m4f maiden hurdle under Ruby Walsh in an almost flawless display.
Andrea and Graham Wylie's five-year-old was novicey over a couple of his obstacles but still had no problem in winning by four-lengths hard held.
"That was very, very good," Mullins said afterwards. "Given his bumper form he was entitled to that and it was intentional to start him off over 2m4f it was just the way the races were coming but I think all trips are open to him."
Outlander obliged in the previous two-mile maiden hurdle with Bryan Cooper steering the Gigginstown odds-on favourite to an 11-length success after 575-days off the track and he is set for a step up in both distance and class after that performance.
Both horses are prominent in the betting for novice assignments at Cheltenham, with Shaneshill remaining at 7/1 for the Neptune and 10/1 for the Supreme with Boylesports, while Outlander was introduced at 14/1 for the Neptune and 12/1 for the Albert Bartlett.
Looking ahead to the weekend, Mullins confirmed that Faugheen will be taking up his assignment in Ascot on Saturday, with Turban heading to Haydock tomorrow afternoon. But Ballycasey will skip Ascot in favour of Gowran Park on Saturday.
"Faugheen will start at Ascot in what looks a nice starting point for him and let's just hope he is the horse everyone says he is."
Faugheen won the Herald Champion Novice Hurdle at Punchestown last year after winning the Neptune at Cheltenham and without stepping out of novice company, he is already favourite to win the Champion Hurdle in March and Ruby Walsh will head to Ascot to partner the six-year-old.
"Turban will go for the Graduation Chase at Haydock on Friday but Ballycasey doesn't look like he'll be travelling as there is a race in Gowran Park that he'll go for instead."
"Vautour seems ready to start over fences at Navan on Sunday. We schooled him at home over a few fences and we were happy with him and with the ground changing we just have to get the horses out now," Mullins concluded.