Unibet Mogiana Hurdle | 2m½f | Grade 1 | 4yo+ | RTV
The only time Willie Mullins has failed to mop up the Morgiana this decade was the 2010 edition when he did not have a runner and the champion trainer's dominance of the first Grade 1 hurdle race of the season looks highly likely to continue as he is represented by the top three in the market.
Mullins has not just supplied the last eight winners but also sent out the 1-2-4 last year, the 1-2-3 in 2015 and the 1-2-3-4 in 2013. It is fair to say no Irish jumps race is dominated by anyone the way Mullins monopolises the Morgiana.
Mullins' Morgiana run
2018 Sharjah (Paul Townend) 7-2
2017 Faugheen (Paul Townend) 4-11f
2016 Nichols Canyon (Ruby Walsh) 8-15f
2015 Nichols Canyon (David Mullins) 7-1
2014 Hurricane Fly (Ruby Walsh) 15-8
2013 Hurricane Fly (Ruby Walsh) 1-16f
2012 Hurricane Fly (Ruby Walsh) 2-5f
2011 Thousand Stars (Ruby Walsh) 5-4f
The great white hope this year is Klassical Dream. The Supreme winner confirmed himself to be the best novice hurdler about last season with a stylish success in the Grade 1 Herald Novice Hurdle on his last visit to Punchestown and he is already ante-post favourite for the 2020 Champion Hurdle.
No horse has ever won the Supreme and the Morgiana in the same year, but Brave Inca did do the double, albeit completing the second leg 20 months after his Cheltenham success.
Paul Townend was on board for Klassical Dream's Irish debut at Leopardstown last Christmas and he is looking forward to renewing his relationship with the five-year-old.
Townend said: "An exciting season awaits him hopefully. Saldier and Sharjah will probably give him the most to do. I hope we can get Klassical Dream off to a winning start here."
Patrick says Sharjah is underrated
Patrick Mullins thinks Sharjah does not get the credit he deserves.
They have won a Galway Hurdle and the Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown together and Ireland's top amateur feels the highest-rated runner in the race, 3lb superior to Klassical Dream according to the handicapper, remains underrated. Ignore him at your peril is the advice.
"I'm really looking forward to riding him. Soft ground is a concern but, although he was brought down early in the Champion Hurdle, I felt he was handling the ground better than I expected. I think he is still underrated," Patrick Mullins said.
Would Saldier have beaten Champion Hurdle winner?
We have not seen Saldier for 371 days but his most recent appearance does not look too bad now.
Sent off the 13-8 favourite for the Grade 3 Fishery Lane Hurdle at Naas, Saldier looked set to beat Espoir D'Allen when crashing out at the last. Form does not get much stronger than that given the winner went on to win the Champion Hurdle by a record-winning distance.
Danny Mullins rides Saldier for the first time in public but he has been doing plenty of the work behind the scenes.
"He looks a very nice horse. His season was over before it began last year. He will need to improve again in a Grade 1 like this but I think he can. I have sat on him plenty of times at home and I have always thought he was a lovely horse," Danny Mullins said.
Are Mouchoir and Fizz making up the numbers?
Petit Mouchoir has been a regular in Grade 1 hurdles in recent years but he has never contested the Morgiana.
The tearaway front-runner has not won a race since bagging a beginners' chase at Punchestown in October 2017 and you will get a very big price about him ending the drought following a lethargic effort in a Grade 3 hurdle at Tipperary last month.
"It's a tough race but hopefully he can improve from his last run at Tipperary when back from a break," said his trainer Henry De Bromhead.
The quintet is completed by the 132-rated Yaha Fitzz, who would appear to be out of his depth.