The unbeaten dual Grade 1 winning novice chaser Energumene will bid to add his name to an illustrious roll of honour in Sunday's Grade 2 Kerry Group Hilly Way Chase at Cork.
Last year's winner Chacun Pour Soi also remains in the line-up as maestro Willie Mullins keeps his options open ahead of an exciting weekend with the ground likely to dictate plans for Ireland's leading two-mile chasers.
Mullins has won the race 12 times since Our Ben was successful in 2007 and only Henry de Bromhead with Days Hotel and Pat Fahy with Castlegrace Paddy have intervened to snare the Hilly Way Chase out of his grasp in that period.
Energumene has barely seen another rival in any race over obstacles, winning by 19 lengths, 18 lengths, eight lengths, and his two Grade 1's most recently by 10 lengths and 16 lengths respectively and Cork racegoers to Cork can look forward to seeing the formidable seven-year-old this Sunday.
Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father Willie said today: “For Energumene stepping out of novice company, the Hilly Way would look an easier stepping stone. It’s an ideal race for a horse starting off out of novice company. We’re very happy with him at home.
“It was unfortunate to miss Cheltenham and lovely for him to come back and win so well at Punchestown afterwards. It was just a case of bad timing. It was a small hold-up and annoying to miss Cheltenham but he was fantastic at Punchestown and at the moment, the sky’s the limit.”
Mullins added of Chacun Pour Soi: “The Hilly Way has been a good prep race for him before, so we know he enjoys it in Cork and so it would be a good place for him to start again if he weren’t to go to Sandown. He’s ready to rock now.
“I’d say in Cheltenham we just got our tactics wrong. We didn’t make use of his cruising speed and jumping. He was pretty faultless other than that."
A total of 13 horses remain in the €70,000 contest with Willie Mullins also giving Allaho and Cash Back the option.
The talented Captain Guinness may also bid to back up his recent Grade 3 success for Henry de Bromhead who has also left Epson Du Houx and Notebook in the race today.
The Joseph O'Brien-trained Darasso may bid to go one better than when second in this race last year to Chacun Pour Soi, while Gordon Elliott's options rely on Grade 1 winners Hardline and Samcro.
Cork also host the Grade 2 O'Flynn Group Irish EBF Mares Novice Chase which has also attracted 13 entries. Emphatic recent Cork winner Magic Daze is an intriguing inclusion alongside Riviere D'etel and multiple Grade 2 winning hurdler Concertista.
A potential high class novice hurdler could be unearthed in the Grade 3 Singletons Supervalu Stayers Novice Hurdle with recent winners Chinx Of Light and Churchstonewarrior heading the field.