Mullins eyes twin assault on Lexus
Boston Bob and On His Own are both in line to represent Willie Mullins in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown as the champion trainer bids to win one of the Festive period's biggest prizes for the first time.
The three-mile highlight on December 28 is of of the few big races so have so far eluded the master of Closutton on his native soil and he is this year set to launch a formidable twin assault.
Boston Bob, a winner at Aintree and Punchestown last spring, disappointed on his return to action at Down Royal, but fared better when runner-up to Don Cossack in the John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase.
Fellow Andrea and Graham Wylie-owned chaser On His Own, so narrowly denied in a controversial finish to last season's Cheltenham Gold Cup, has failed to replicate that form since at either Punchestown in April or Down Royal in November.
"Boston Bob and On His Own will hopefully be fine for the Lexus," said Mullins.
The pair look set to feature in a typically strong Mullins party heading for Leopardstown's four-day feast.
Hugely impressive Fairyhouse winner Kalkir, a leading fancy for the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham, will line up in the Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle on Boxing Day.
Mullins has a numerically strong hand in the Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle the following day with nine of the 17 horses still in contention following the latest forfeit stage.
Royal Bond Novice Hurdle winner Nichols Canyon is set to head the team as he goes in search of successive Grade One victory.
"Nichols Canyon will run in the Future Champions Novice Hurdle, but we still have a few in that and we'll see what goes with him," said the trainer.
"I imagine Shaneshill will miss Christmas, having run the other day (at Navan)."
Douvan and Tell Us More, two more leading Cheltenham Festival fancies, are among Mullins' other entries in that race, but they could go elsewhere in the near future.
"I'd like to keep Douvan and Tell Us More separate, so I'll chat to the owners and see what they want to do," he said.
"That might mean waiting a week or two, but there's races in Ireland and the Challow Hurdle at Newbury and the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown."
Briar Hill has not been seen since suffering a nasty fall when favourite for the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham, but is set for an imminent return in December 28's Squared Financial Christmas Hurdle.
Mullins said: " Briar Hill hasn't fired since fracturing his cheekbone at Cheltenham, but he will run in three-miler at Leopardstown (Christmas Hurdle). In his defence, he never does fire at home, so we'll probably let him run and see what he does."
Drinmore Novice Chase winner Valseur Lido has Christmas entries, but Mullins said: "I'd prefer to give him a longer break, although he is still in and could run."
The trainer also gave updates on a few of his other stable stars, including Pont Alexandre, who has been out of action since finishing third to The New One in the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham in March 2013.
"Pont Alexandre is back doing fast work and apart from being sluggish in his work, he's doing well and should around February 1," he said.
"I'm really looking forward to him as he was very good and still is very good, I hope.
"Back In Focus (off since April 2013) might be back at the end of January or early February.
"Vroum Vroum Mag will probably go for a mares race at Thurles (mid January) that's worth 50,000 euro."
One horse still out of action is 2013 Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Sir Des Champs.
The eight-year-old missed the blue riband last season through injury and will not be back for this year's renewal after suffering another setback.
Mullins said: " Sir Des Champs has had a separate injury now. He hurt his pastern and needs a month's box rest. If we aim for Punchestown (Festival), we might make that. If not, we'll put him away for the year."