Willie Mullins pencils Yorkhill in for potential Sizing John clash at Christmas
Willie Mullins is leaning towards letting Yorkhill make his seasonal reappearance in the Leopardstown Christmas Chase on December 28.
The seven-year-old won his first three starts over fences last season, completing his hat-trick with a second successive victory at the Cheltenham Festival in the JLT Novices' Chase in March.
It is testament to his latent ability that he managed to get within a neck of Road To Respect on his final start of the campaign in the Ryanair Gold Cup at Fairyhouse, despite jumping violently to his right for much of the Grade One contest.
Yorkhill also holds entries in the Ryanair Hurdle over two miles and the three-mile Squared Financial Christmas Hurdle, but Mullins appears keen to test him over three miles over fences in a race formerly known as the Lexus Chase, setting up a potentially mouthwatering clash with Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Sizing John.
Explaining his decision not to run in the John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown on Sunday, Mullins told the Irish Times: "He probably would have run except it was right-handed. Opportunities left-handed are a little harder to get for a horse like him. But Leopardstown at Christmas looks a good possibility.
"His pedigree is all staying and I imagine he'll go for the longer trip alright. I imagine that (Leopardstown Christmas Chase) will be it.
"He fine and I'm happy with him."
Mullins saddled a staggering 22 winners during the various Christmas festivals in Ireland last year and is unsurprisingly well represented across the seven Grade One events scheduled at Leopardstown.
Douvan holds an entry in the King George VI Chase at Kempton, but is likely to stick to the shorter distance of two miles and a furlong in the Paddy's Rewards Club Chase on December 27.
Faugheen, a brilliant winner of last month's Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown on his return from a lengthy absence, could bid for a third victory in Kempton's Christmas Hurdle, although Mullins is also favouring keeping him on home soil for the Ryanair Hurdle on December 29.
Douvan was a late withdrawal from the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown, but Mullins is hopeful he will be ready to return over the festive period.
He added: "He is fine and hasn't missed a day riding out. He just wasn't right on the morning we had to declare him (for Sandown). We had ferries and bad weather, and it was his first run of the year sending him to England, and so, especially the way things happened, I didn't want to run him.
"If he wasn't right when he got there someone else would have had to make a decision, because I wasn't going to be in England, and that wouldn't have been fair. So if in doubt, pull out.
"He's riding out fine. We're looking at Leopardstown for him. He could go up in trip but I imagine we will keep him at two miles.
"Faugheen is entered in that (Ryanair Hurdle) and we'll probably enter him at Kempton, too. But I imagine we would prefer to stay at home. I think we'll get him out at Christmas alright."