Henry De Bromhead has the most runners of any trainer at Leopardstown on St Stephen's Day, including Aspire Tower who should be a leading player in the Grade Two highlight.
Aspire Tower is joined by his stable companion Zarkareva among eight runners for the Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle, a race that in recent years has thrown up superstar names such Apple’s Jade (2015) and Espoir d’Allen two years ago.
De Bromhead has 14 declarations in total for Thursday’s card at Leopardstown which could see him enjoy another bumper Christmas festival.
The Co Waterford trainer saddled five winners overall during Leopardstown's four days a year ago. He also four other victories between Down Royal and Limerick. Only Willie Mullins with 10 had more while Gordon Elliott and Joseph O'Brien trailed their rivals with five each.
Notebook will carry De Bromhead’s Grade One ambitions in the Racing Post Novice Chase but that horse faces a major task taking on Laurina and Fakir d’Oudairies.
Aspire Tower too is one of a deep field that contains other proven winners in A Wave To The Sea and Sacchoandvanzetti as well two intriguing new French recruits.
Aramax is a half brother to the Grade One winner Aramon while Willie Mullins pitches the flat winning filly Echoes In Rain straight into graded company.
There’s a sense of “could be anything” about both but they will have to be smart to match the impression made by Aspire Tower on his own jumping debut at Punchestown.
Rachael Blackmore’s mount was far from perfect in everything he did but still wind up a 15-length winner with another of Thursday’s opponents, Wolf Prince, back in third. Wolf Prince has won since so the form looks strong.
Clemencia also broke his maiden by 15 lengths in Cork and did so in a style that suggests if he was trained by one of the bigger names he might start favourite. The Bolger colours he carries were successful in this race five years ago with the 33-1 Fiscal Focus.
Blackmore can get the festival off to a perfect start in the opening maiden hurdle with De Bromhead’s Fusain while the trainer has three chances in a later handicap chase. They include the Gigginstown Stud pair Trainwreck although there will be significant support once again for Ellie Mac and her owners in the Niccolai Schuster Racing Club.
The mare landed a hugely emotional 50-1 St Stephen's Day success in 2017 for an ownership club created to honour the memory of Niccolai Schuster, the 21-year-old UCD student who died in the Berkeley balcony tragedy in California in 2015. Davy Russell does the steering this time on Ellie Mac who has won three times in all and was third last time at Thurles. A value option lurking at the bottom of the weights however, may be At The Acorn who ran well for a long way at Navan over a week ago.
His stable companion The Mouse Doctor looks another interesting option in an earlier novice handicap hurdle. Tony Martin’s runner hasn’t won in half a dozen starts over flights, the last of which was in April.
However, The Mouse Doctor brings in winning form from just last week when successful in a mile-and-a-half handicap on the all-weather at Dundalk. That was off a mark of 75 which makes a 102 National Hunt rating attractive.
The opening two maiden hurdles on last year's corresponding card threw up a pair of future Cheltenhaam festival winners in Klassical Dream and City Island. The latter's trainer Martin Brassil saddles Buddy Rich for owner Seán Mulryan in the same race and there was plenty to like about the way he chased home Cavalry Master on his last start.
Willie Mullins runs Conceretista and Mt Leinster in this on the back of surprise defeats for both of them last time. Mt Leinster is proving expensive to follow as is the quirky Entoucas. That could leave Buddy Rich as a leading player.
With Patrick Mullins on duty in Limerick Richie Deegan teams up with Ramillies in the concluding bumper. This one landed an English point to point last March after which he was sold for £215,000 (€251,000).