Willie Mullins set to finally unleash Laurina at Sandown
Six-year-old to run in Mares’ Hurdle with the ground finally suitable for her reappearance
Laurina and Paul Townend romped to the Mares Novices’ Hurdle at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Laurina is set to face just three rivals when she makes her eagerly anticipated return to action at Sandown on Saturday.
The six-year-old made a huge impression in winning each of her four starts for Willie Mullins last season, including an 18-length demolition job at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
Connections stated their intentions to go down the Champion Hurdle route this season. But she has missed a whole host of engagements — including the Coral Hurdle at Ascot, the International and Relkeel Hurdles at Cheltenham and the Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown — on account of unsuitable ground.
With testing conditions forecast at Sandown, she has travelled across the Irish Sea for what looks a gilt-edged opportunity to extend her winning sequence in the Unibet Mares’ Hurdle.
Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father, said: “We’ve had to be very patient with her, because we’ve been waiting on the ground.
“This looks an ideal starting point for her. She’s a second-season novice, so it’s nice not to have to pitch her straight into an open Grade One, and it looks as though the ground will be soft.
“She’s in good form, and we’re hoping she can produce the same sort of form she showed last year.
“If she’s going to be a Champion Hurdle mare, she’s going to have to be winning a race like this.”
Laurina will be long odds-on to make a successful reappearance in the hands of Ruby Walsh — with Oliver Sherwood’s Got Away, the Noel Williams-trained Sensulano and Smaoineamh Alainn from Robert Walford’s yard all rated vastly inferior to the Irish raider.
She is a best-priced 5-1 second-favourite for the Unibet Champion Hurdle, behind dual winner Buveur D’Air at 6-4.