Sky Bet Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle (Grade 2)| 2m | 5yo+ | ATR
Mengli Khan, whose bizarre exit from the Grade 1 Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown last month was just one of many dramas at the Christmas festival, gets the chance to resume winning ways in a Punchestown contest with a rich roll of honour.
Among his six rivals is the unbeaten Getabird, who made a successful hurdling debut here last month over 2m4f and represents Willie Mullins and Rich Ricci, who have triumphed in this with Mikael D'Haguenet, Vautour, Douvan and Min. Of that quartet only Min, who finished second to Altior, failed to win a novice hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
Mengli Khan arrived at Leopardstown in search of a four-timer but he ducked left and ran out through the wings of the second-last when holding every chance.
Trainer Gordon Elliott said: "Mengli Khan is in good order. What happened last time was, hopefully, a one-off – he might have been distracted by a shadow, who knows?"
Davy Russell's mount has an 8lb penalty to contend with for last month's success in the Grade 1 Royal Bond Novice Hurdle, and Elliott, who also saddles Hardline, added: "Mengli Khan has to give weight to everything else so it will be a tough ask, but we're happy with him.
"Hardline looks well held by Mengli Khan and we'll be happy if he can pick up a bit of prize-money."
With Paul Townend serving a careless riding ban and Danny Mullins injured, Patrick Mullins teams up with Getabird, who leads a three-strong Mullins team in a race the trainer has won on six occasions since 2009.
Patrick Mullins said: "It's great to get the ride on Getabird. I'm two from two on him in bumpers and he was impressive on his first run over hurdles.
"This race has a good record of producing Cheltenham winners and, time-wise, it fits in well to the pre-festival programme. Getabird might be a horse you'd step back up in trip on drier ground in the spring."
Carter McKay, left clear at the final hurdle for a 15-length win on his hurdling debut at Gowran Park in November, and Makitorix, an 18-length winner of a maiden at the Listowel festival but disappointing on his two subsequent starts, complete the Mullins team.
Carter McKay and Makitorix have new riders, with David Mullins partnering Carter McKay and Rachael Blackmore linking up with Makitorix.
The Henry de Bromhead-trained High School Days, winner of his last three starts and the mount of Denis O'Regan, enters Graded company for the first time having landed a handicap hurdle at Thurles on his most recent outing last month.
Completing the seven-runner line-up is the Tom Mullins-trained Top Othe Ra, a four-time winner over hurdles and the mount of Bryan Cooper.