Mullins poised to pounce after Our Conor defection
Saturday's AES Champion Four Year Old Hurdle at Punchestown is yet another Grade One event dominated by Willie Mullins runners after Dessie Hughes opted not to run stable star Our Conor.
The undisputed king of the juvenile division this season following a scintillating display in the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, Our Conor was set to finish off his season in this race.
However, Hughes has decided against running his pride and joy in the testing conditions.
Hughes said: "There's no need to run him, he doesn't need to prove anything so he'll go out to grass now.
"I've no real plan for next year, I imagine he'll have a run on the Flat first somewhere.
"It's no coincidence that his best performance came at Cheltenham, which is the best ground he's raced on.
"His worst performance came at Listowel when he was well beaten by Inis Mean and that was the worst ground he'd raced on."
Our Conor's defection came as a surprise to Mullins, who saddles four - Diakali, Blood Cotil, Djakadam and Dogora - of the six declared runners.
The leading hope among the quartet is Diakali, who has finished behind Our Conor on his last two starts, placing fourth in the Triumph.
Ruby Walsh's mount is fitted with a hood for the first time.
Mullins said: "I was surprised he (Our Conor) wasn't running. I think we all expected him to run.
"Diakali has good form and we're hoping he can replicate that. We think putting a hood on him might suit him.
"Blood Cotil was disappointing on his last run but if he comes back to his best he is a good horse.
"Djakadam is more of a chaser but with the ground the way it is after the rain, I think that will be to his liking.
"Dogora is improving with every run and deserves to take his chance."
The field is completed by Jessica Harrington's Fairyhouse scorer One Fine Day and the Charles O'Brien-trained Stocktons Wing.