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Willie Mullins duo renew rivalry in Naas Grade One

Stable companions Bellshill and Stone Hard will lock horns for a second time this season in the Lawlor's Hotel Novice Hurdle at Naas.

Formerly known as the Slaney Novice Hurdle, the two-and-a-half-mile contest will be run at Grade One level for just the second time.

Bellshill, winner of the Champion INH Flat Race at last season's Punchestown Festival, has made a flying start to his hurdling career with victories at Cork and in the Grade Two Navan Novice Hurdle.

Stone Hard, a smart bumper performer himself, won on his hurdling bow at Gowran but made several mistakes before eventually unseating Paul Townend at Navan three weeks ago.

The pair form a formidable twin assault for Willie Mullins, who is bidding to win this prize for a sixth time in the last 11 years.

While Bellshill currently heads the betting for the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, the champion trainer is not ruling out a return to two miles.

Mullins said: "Bellshill was very good the last day at Navan. His bumper form has worked out very well with Barters Hill unbeaten. I 'm open-minded about his trip. I'd have no problem bringing him back, he has plenty of gears and I love the way he jumps. With the cruising speed he has, two miles wouldn't be a problem.

"Stone Hard also takes his chance. I think he's more a three-miler, so it will be interesting to see what he can do. The race will answer a few questions."

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