Laurina saunters to a winning return in two horse race at Sandown
Exciting Willie Mullins mare beats Sensulano by 48 lengths in comfortable seasonal bow
Laurina and Ruby Walsh clear the last en-route to a comfortable victory at Sandown. Photograph: Julian Herbert/PA
Laurina had little more than a workout as she duly disposed of her solitary rival to enhance her Cheltenham claims in the Unibet Mares’ Hurdle at Sandown.
All eyes were on the Willie Mullins-trained six-year-old, who was making her first appearance since landing a Grade One event at Fairyhouse in April, which came after success in the mares’ novice hurdle at Cheltenham Festival.
Ruby Walsh sent Laurina to the front from the start and the six-year-old won as a 1-8 shot should without being extended, as she took her 100 per cent record over hurdles to five from five.
The race was reduced to a match after both Got Away and Smaoineamh Alainn were late withdrawals — and it turned it a one-horse a race at the business end.
Sensulano kept tabs on the hot favourite until the final two flights, from where she was put in her place and eventually beaten some 48 lengths.
Laurina remained unchanged at 9-2 for the Champion Hurdle with Betfair and 4-1 with Paddy Power. RaceBets went 100-30 from 5-1, with Buveur D’Air the 5-4 favourite (from 11-10).
Mullins said: “Ruby said she was very good. Every time he took a pull she wanted to go faster and faster, and he said he never really got going.
“Going to Cheltenham is the plan. We’ll see whether we get another race into her in between. It’s not important, I think, giving her another run.
“Ruby said she didn’t take a blow there. It was an exercise for her. He was very pleased with her.
“Listening to Ruby, I’d say he’d ride the mare at Cheltenham at this stage. He didn’t ride her last time so he didn’t know if she has improved or not. I would have said she has improved, but that competition didn’t tell us enough.
“A winner is a winner and I’m very happy with that. It was her first run back and the ground up the straight was very testing. I saw the four year-olds, some fit four year-olds and they were out on their feet.
“Obviously we would have liked more competition, but winning races is what it is all about. We will possibly get another run into her for more more practice, but I’m happy.
“She will get entered for that (Irish Champion), but whether that comes too soon, I don’t know — we will see. We will see how she comes out of it.
“At this stage of her career she must be as good if not better than any of them (Annie Power and Quevega), as she is unbeaten.”
It’s great she’s started and the dream is still alive
Walsh said: “She jumped fine in the main, she was a bit fresh but she was entitled to be. I couldn’t slow her down, the more I tried, the keener she was to go faster.
“We know she’s fit. She’s had a run under her belt now and has gone two and a half miles on testing ground.
“Sandown is a fair old slog. You want the first run under belt before you take on the top horses, she has her first run now and hopefully she’ll step up.
“She’s a very good mare — she’s unbeaten and you don’t know where the ceiling is.
“It’s great she’s started and the dream is still alive.”
Later Elixir De Nutz ground out a game all-the-way success to take Grade One honours in the Unibet Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle.
Colin Tizzard’s five-year-old — wearing the familiar yellow and black colours of owner Terry Warner — kept up the gallop to see off his four rivals in the hands of Tom O’Brien.
Elixir De Nutz (3-1) put in a good round of jumping and found plenty when tackled by Grand Sancy in the closing stages to score by half a length.
The disappointment of the race was the Nicky Henderson-trained 6-5 favourite Rathhill, who made a mistake early on and was struggling from some way out.
Elixir De Nutz was completing a hat-trick following two wins at Cheltenham and was cut to 14-1 from 20-1 for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle with Betfair and Paddy Power.