Friday 1 February 2019

Cheltenham Week: Willie Mullins comments on Laurina’s chances in the Champion Hurdle


It was easily the most resounding victory of Laurina’s career to date, but trainer Willie Mullins is hopeful the six-year-old will be primed for the Champion Hurdle during Cheltenham week.

Cruising to a 48 length victory over her only opponent at Sandown on Saturday, Laurina is now second favourite for the Champion Hurdle after winning all her races since Mullins became her trainer.

Mullins’ comments

“Cheltenham is the plan and we’ll see if we get another race in between,” Mullins told The Guardian.

“We would have liked more competition, but winning races is what racing is about. We could possibly get another run and more practice into her but I’m happy. She’s a natural jumper and a good jumper and getting to Cheltenham sound is my priority now,” Mullins continued.

The legendary trainer will certainly be confident of Laurina making her mark when Cheltenham Festival comes round in eight weeks or so. Her main rival will be Buveur D’Air – who has won back-to-back Champion Hurdles – so it makes for an enticing and intriguing battle.

Saturday’s victory at Sandown will certainly have generated further interest in Laurina amongst punters and racing fans, and Mullins’ words suggest the foal will make quite the impression at Prestbury Park.

As exciting as Laurina’s expected battle with Buveur D’Air will be, Mullins confirmed he is quietly confident that the sky’s the limit for his newest project: “At this stage of her career she must be as good as, if not better than, any of them (previous winners Mullins has trained).”


Ruby Walsh thoughts

It was the first time jockey Ruby Walsh had ridden Laurina and as emphatic as the victory at Sandown was, the Irishman confirmed he expects more of the same in future races: “She’s unbeaten, so you don’t know where the ceiling is,” Walsh told The Guardian. “That’s what draws people to racing, that’s what the dream is about.”

Walsh’s victory was his first in the British season since May, and all eyes will be on the 39-year-old when the festival comes round in March. The two-horse race was almost farcical as Walsh cruised to victory but he was mightily impressed with Laurina’s performance, nonetheless.
“She galloped along a bit fresh probably,” Walsh said, “and she was entitled to be [fresh] but I couldn’t slow her down. I realised a long way out that Barry [Geraghty, on his sole opponent] was struggling but the more I tried to slow her down, the keener she was to go faster.

“How far she can go, you’ll never know until she’s beaten. If what seems to be there is there, she could be very good but we won’t know until I give her a kick in the belly. You never know but she leaves the impression that there’s a hell of a lot of horse under there.”

Buveur D’Air is the current favourite, priced at 13/8 with Laurina second (9/2) and Melon joint third alongside Sharjah (12/1). You can check out the rest of the field right here, with all ante-post markets available:


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