Townend has a Morgiana Dream
Champion trainer Willie Mullins boasts a strong hand in his quest to extend his remarkable record in the Grade 1 Unibet Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown with three-time Grade 1 winning novice, Klassical Dream spearheading his representation.
Mullins has held off all rivals in the last eight renewals of the Unibet Morgiana Hurdle and is a short price with the big race sponsors to win a ninth with last years winner Sharjah also among the entries.
Paul Townend has made the smooth transition to stable jockey for Mullins' powerful Closutton stable following Ruby Walsh's retirement at the Punchestown Festival earlier this year and Townend is himself looking to win a third consecutive renewal of the Grade 1 Unibet Morgiana Hurdle.
Townend has already enjoyed Grade 1 success for Mullins since taking over from Walsh following the success of Benie Des Dieux in the French Champion Hurdle in May and the reigning champion jockey is hoping to unearth another Champion Hurdle contender at Punchestown this weekend as the Unibet Morgiana Hurdle takes up a new Saturday slot for the first time.
Speaking on Tuesday morning, Townend said: "Klassical Dream has to step up to the big league now as he steps out of being a novice last season but hopefully he can do that.
"He was very impressive on all his starts last season and he seems to be the real deal, but he has to prove that now in against the big boys."
Townend rode against Klassical Dream when he won each of his three Grade 1 races as a novice last season but Saturday will be his second time to partner the five-year-old in a race as Townend was in the saddle when Klassical Dream made a winning Irish debut last Christmas.
"I loved him when I won on him at Leopardstown last season," Townend added. "He made a mess of the last hurdle and he galloped away to the line again. He always showed us at home that he was a bit above average. The Morgiana Hurdle fits in nicely to his season and it's a good place to start."
Among the plethora of Mullins winners in this race are household names such as Hurricane Fly and Faugheen, the latter who provided Townend with his first Unibet Morgiana Hurdle success.
"I actually got beat on Hurricane Fly in the Morgiana Hurdle to Solwhit," the jockey recalled. "Klassical Dream is a completely different horse. Hurricane Fly was a flat horse with loads of speed whereas Klassical Dream is more of a National Hunt type, probably more like Faugheen.
"If Klassical Dream can do half of what either Hurricane Fly or Faugheen did he wouldn't be doing a bad job! But in this game we are always looking for potential and the potential is there with Klassical Dream and I'm really looking forward to Punchestown at the weekend."
Mullins is also responsible for notable entries in some of the supporting races at Punchestown this weekend including the former Unibet Morgiana Hurdle winner Faugheen who could embark on his chasing career in the Naas Oil Beginners Chase.
On Sunday, Mullins has included Cheltenham Festival winner Eglantine Du Seuil in the Frontline Security Grabel Mares Hurdle alongside last years winner Stormy Ireland
Townend concluded: "It is an exciting time of year and we had a big weekend last weekend and we managed to pull a couple of winners out of it. It is the start of the big guns coming out and there is a lot to look forward to.
The Gordon Elliott-trained Battleoverdoyen is another big name set to line up at Punchestown this weekend as he steps up in grade for the Liam and Valerie Brennan Florida Pearl Novice Chase on Sunday.
The Grade 2 Elliott Group Craddockstown Novice Chase has attracted some good entries with Daly Tiger, Eclair De Beaufeu, Moon Over Germany and Notebook all entered.
Racing on Saturday is due to begin at 12.15pm with Sunday's action set to get underway at 12.05pm.
Unibet Morgiana Hurdle betting courtesty of Unibet: Klassical Dream 4/9, Sharjah 11/4, Saldier 5/1, Petit Mouchoir 20/1, Yaha Fizz 100/1