Vega and Voler take World test
Thursday's Ladbrokes.com Hurdle promises to be one of the most enthralling contests of Punchestown as Quevega and Voler La Vedette lock horns.
The incredible Quevega landed the David Nicholson Mares' Hurdle at Cheltenham for the fourth successive year last month and is going for a hat-trick for Willie Mullins in this three-mile affair.
Voler La Vedette was beaten into fourth in last year's renewal, but seems vastly improved since and would likely give Quevega plenty to think about if reproducing her excellent second behind the legendary Big Buck's in Cheltenham's World Hurdle.
"We were delighted with her performance in Cheltenham, especially considering the way the race was run," said Mullins.
"She showed huge speed, which we know she has as we're not afraid to run her in two-mile races either. But it suits us with Hurricane Fly to run her in the three-miler.
"We're happy with how she came out of Cheltenham.
"It's going to be a tough race with Voler La Vedette taking us on as she ran a cracking race against Big Buck's in Cheltenham.
"It will be an interesting race. I wouldn't have any worries about the ground for our mare, I'm sure she'll be fine."
The champion trainer also saddles Mourad, who has been placed in the last two renewals of this race but was well behind Voler La Vedette at Cheltenham, as well as the talented Mikael D'Haguenet.
"Mourad has to give weight away to the two mares and it looks a tough task for him on his Cheltenham running," Mullins added.
"But he was in good form before Cheltenham, so maybe he can bounce back.
"The ground won't be a problem for Mikael and he could run a decent race as well."
Voler La Vedette's trainer Colm Murphy is also anticipating a race to savour and believes the testing conditions will not inconvenience his charge.
"She seems well and we're looking forward to running her again. It's a race to look forward to," said Murphy.
"Quevega is obviously a very good mare and beat us in this race last year, but I think our mare is after improving a good bit since then.
"She ran a blinder in Cheltenham and seems to be getting better all the time.
"She's handled softer ground all right before, so I wouldn't have any worries on that score."
The JP McManus-owned Get Me Out Here impressed at Fairyhouse a little over a fortnight ago for Jonjo O'Neill and steps up to three miles for the first time.
"He's been in good shape since Fairyhouse. He came out of the race well and Jonjo has been very happy with him," said McManus' racing manager Frank Berry.
"The conditions are going to be hard work and I don't know he'll handle that, but it's the end of the season and we'll give it a go.
"We're on a bit of a find-out mission with the trip - he's never been three miles before and he's going to have to stay in this ground. We'll see what happens."
Won In The Dark was brought down on his latest appearance at Aintree and proceeded to jump one of the Grand National fences riderless.
His trainer, Sabrina Harty, said: "He was fine after his fall in Aintree. He actually jumped the Chair in the straight - he's never seen a fence before in his life!
"There wasn't a scratch on him afterwards and he's been in good form since he arrived home.
"The ground is completely against him tomorrow and it's a very competitive race, but I think we'll let him take his chance.
"He had a winter break with a view to having a spring and summer campaign, so after tomorrow we'll keep him on the go.
"Hopefully we'll find some conditions races over three miles for him."
A nine-runner field is completed by Berties Dream, Whatuthink and What A Charm.