Saturnas a tentative choice for Ruby Walsh in Deloitte at Leopardstown
Ruby Walsh is far from certain he has made the correct choice after electing to ride Saturnas in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown.
Willie Mullins saddles six of the 10 runners in the Grade One contest, of which Walsh had the pick, and he has sided with Saturnas following his victory in the Future Champions Novice Hurdle.
However, the champion trainer also fields a number of horses with untapped potential including impressive course winner Bunk Off Early, the mount of Paul Townend, and runaway Cork scorer Chateau Conti, who will be ridden by Mikey Fogarty.
Bacardys (Patrick Mullins), Bravissimo (Katie Walsh) and Riven Light (Danny Mullins) complete the Mullins assault.
Walsh told the Irish Examiner: "I had only the six to choose from in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle, and went with Saturnas.
"There have been a few small changes to the programme, and that's what has left us with so many runners here. Some of them would have been running in winners' races, but those races seem to have gone out of the programme.
"I think Bacardys and Bravissimo probably want further to be at their best, while Chateau Conti and Bunk Off Early were impressive in their respective maidens, but both have had just one run over hurdles.
"Riven Light didn't jump great at Christmas, when behind Saturnas, but his schooling has improved since. He will have to translate that to the track, because he'll have to jump a helluva lot better to be competitive here.
"Saturnas is the Grade One winner, and that's a lot of the reason I went for him. He won that race well at Christmas, over two miles, and I think the step up two-two will suit him. I've gone for form over potential. Potentially, who knows what Bunk Off Early, Chateau Conti, Bravissimo or Bacardys could be?
"The form of Saturnas' race at Christmas was strong, and the time was quick. Maybe I've played it safe, siding with the form horse over the potentials, but you have to have some rationale behind your decisions."
Mullins' title rival Gordon Elliott has Blood Crazed Tiger, Brelade and Barra in contention.
Barry Geraghty is looking forward to riding Brelade for the first time after he finished a two-length second to Saturnas over Christmas.
He told At The Races: "He battled on well to win a good maiden hurdle on Troytown Chase day at Navan in November, and he stepped forward from that to finish second to Saturnas.
"He will obviously have to come on again for that if he is to reverse placings with Saturnas, but that was just his second run over hurdles, so hopefully he can."
The Noel Meade-trained Gunnery Sergeant completes the field.