Laurina, one of jump racing’s most exciting horses, is set to return at Sandown on Saturday before a potential tilt at the Unibet Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
Having missed several possible races due to a lack of soft ground, Laurina will line up in the Listed Unibet Mares’ Hurdle at the weekend as she bids to build on a striking novice season in which she cantered to victory in the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham before adding Grade 1 success to her CV at Fairyhouse.
Owner Jared Sullivan said on Thursday: “The plan is to run and she’s on the boat. Willie [Mullins] wants to run her on soft ground so we’ve had to wait for it.
“It’s been murder waiting and I’ve got loads of them to run, but we can only go when the ground is right.
“She could’ve run in the Coral Hurdle or the Bula or the Relkeel and I like to think she’d have won those races, but the ground wasn’t right and we don’t want to mess her up.”
Long held in high regard, Laurina is the current 5-1 second favourite for the Champion Hurdle and Sullivan, whose colours have been carried by the likes of dual King George VI Chase winner Silviniaco Conti, is eager to target the highlight on the opening day of the festival with his six-year-old.
“They think she’s pretty good,” Sullivan said. “Sandown’s the only real race to go for now and if she proves good enough I’d really like to go for the Champion Hurdle with her.
“Obviously she needs to step up on what she’s done and prove she’s as good as we think she is, but if she is that’s where we’d like to go.”
Connections of Laurina will be buoyed by the latest update on ground conditions at Sandown from clerk of the course Andrew Cooper, who predicted the going would be largely soft on Saturday.
He said: “The bulk of the hurdles course is soft ground and it’s a dead, sticky, hard-work soft rather than a wet, loose soft.
“The official description is soft, good to soft in places in the back straight and the covers are down now so the ground is standing still. That’s how I expect it to be on Saturday.”
Laurina will not be joined by stablemate Benie Des Dieux at Sandown, according to trainer Willie Mullins. The eight-year-old was last in action when following up her Cheltenham Festival success with victory at Punchestown in April.
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