Wednesday 20 February 2019

Laurina to complete Champion Hurdle prep

Willie Mullins
Willie Mullins
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

Laurina is likely to make her second appearance of the season in the Listed Quevega Hurdle at Punchestown on February 20 where she will complete her Champion Hurdle preparations.

Willie Mullins's exciting mare has oozed class since switching to the Closutton maestro and is unbeaten in five starts over hurdles, most recently winning a Sandown stroll last month.

Mullins is keen to get another run into the six-year-old - 7/2 third favourite for the Champion Hurdle - before joining Apple's Jade (2/1) and reigning champion Buveur D'Air (7/4 favourite) in the hurdling showpiece.

"There are a few races Laurina could run in but the Punchestown race is the most likely. At this stage it looks as if she will run in the Champion Hurdle, rather than in the Grade One Mares' race," he said.

Mullins expects last year's Mares' Hurdle winner Benie Des Dieux to return for a back-to-back bid with a seasonal reappearance expected in either Gowran Park's Red Mills Trial Hurdle on Saturday week or a day later in Navan's Boyne Hurdle.

Mullins' brother Tom has been dealt a blow with talented juvenile performer Rocky Blue ruled out for the rest of the season with injury.

Winner of a Grade Two at Leopardstown's Christmas meeting, Rocky Blue had looked a lively outsider for the Triumph Hurdle but is now set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines.

Meanwhile, Pat Doyle has his eyes set on trips to Aintree or Punchestown and a possible tilt at the Irish Grand National for Kaiser Black after delivering a career-best when second to La Bague Au Roi in Sunday's Flogas Novice Chase at Leopardstown.

Off since winning the Connacht National at Roscommon in June, Kaiser Black defied Doyle's expectations with a superb run and Tipperary handler Doyle now has some lofty targets in mind for the eight-year-old.

"It was a beautiful run, he's still a novice so we'll probably go down that route. I don't know what the handicapper will do to him because the Irish National is another option," Doyle said.

"He's entitled to go for another Grade One over three miles, I'd say. He might have a run over hurdles somewhere as he's only rated 123."

Elsewhere, connections will be unable to declare a horse to run in any race at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival if the same horse has already been declared for another race or has already competed in another race over the four days at the Cotswolds.

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