Willie convinced of Vautour de force at Leopardstown
Willie Mullins is confident Vautour is "ready for anything" ahead of his first Grade One assignment over fences in the Racing Post Novice Chase at Leopardstown.
The five-year-old got last season's Cheltenham Festival off to a flyer for the Irish with a mesmerising display in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle and he went on to follow up at Punchestown, capping an unbeaten campaign.
He could not have been more impressive on his chasing bow at Navan last month and will be long odds-on to beat five rivals on St Stephen's Day, with Paul Townend deputising in the saddle for Kempton-bound Ruby Walsh.
Mullins said: "Vautour was awesome in Navan first time over fences, but when he won the Supreme he jumped those hurdles without making any mistake. He looked like he was on a different set of rails.
"I thought Ruby was going a mad pace (at Cheltenham), but Ruby has this clock in his head and he knew he was going a pace he was happy with but the others were struggling and couldn't keep it up. He was foot-perfect at every hurdle.
"It is lovely to watch horses stand off all the time but you need a horse that has to be able to shorten up and put in a quick one when they are wrong.
"I think he's ready for anything. I think he looks the part and everything he's done so far he is the part. I'm looking forward to him."
Vautour is re-opposed by the Gordon Elliott-trained Clarcam, who was eight lengths adrift at Navan and has since got off the mark over fences himself at the same track.
Noel Meade's Chancol is two from two over fences, most recently landing the Grade Two Craddockstown Novice Chase at Punchestown.
Mr Fiftyone opened his chasing account at Thurles last month, but was undoubtedly a fortunate winner following the fall of Vautour's talented stablemate Un De Sceaux.
Tony Martin's experienced chaser Ted Veale and the Mouse Morris-trained Real Steel complete the line-up going under starter's orders at 2.55.