Allaho versus Chacun Pour Soi and Envoi Allen versus Monkfish are the two big clashes on the opening day of the Punchestown Festival on Tuesday.
Both head-to-heads see Rachael Blackmore in the Cheveley Park Stud colours and Paul Townend in the Rich Ricci silks. Townend leads Blackmore by four winners, with the season ending next Saturday.
Townend, the reigning champion, has not ridden since injuring his foot in a fall at Fairyhouse on Easter Sunday. Blackmore has since closed the gap in the title race. However, Paddy Power makes Townend the 1/5 favourite to retain his title. Blackmore is 7/2 to become the first female champion jump jockey.
Paul Townend is set to return from injury with three rides on the opening day of the Punchestown Festival.
Mullins said: “Paul rode out yesterday and today. It’s great to have him back.”
Blue Lord is Townend's first ride of the day on Tuesday in the Grade 1 novice hurdle over two miles, a race in which Appreciate It is an absentee. Blue Lord was set to finish a distant second to Appreciate It at Cheltenham when falling at the final flight.
Stable companion Echoes In Rain looks the main danger to Blue Lord, in receipt of the 7lb sex allowance.
Just five horses have been declared with Colonel Mustard, Dewcup and Uhtred completing the line-up.
Appreciate It is entered in the Alanna Homes Champion Novice Hurdle over two and a half miles later in the week, but is not certain to take his chance there either.
Mullins said: “We’ll see. We’re going to play it by ear.”
Willie Mullins also has the main two contenders for the two-mile Champion Chase, with Rachael Blackmore keeping the ride on Ryanair Chase winner Allaho, and Townend on Chacun Pour Soi, who was a beaten favourite when third in the Champion Chase at Cheltenham.
Chacun Pour Soi, who had won two Grade 1s at Leopardstown previously, will have to turn the tables on Dan Skelton’s Nube Negra, runner-up that day.
The Kim Bailey-trained First Flow, who finished sixth, renews rivalry while Castlegrace Paddy and Daly Tiger complete the field.
Blackmore takes the mount on Envoi Allen for the first time in the three-mile Champion Novice Chase. An early casualty on his first start for trainer Henry de Bromhead at Cheltenham, Envoi Allen is trying three miles for the first time here. His main rival Monkfish is proven at the trip but may not be ideally suited by the drying ground conditions.
Mullins is also responsible for the two other runners in the race, Franco de Port and Colreevy, winner of the Mares’ Chase at Cheltenham.