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Mullins sends Champion hope Laurina to Sandown for return


Trainer Willie Mullins. Photo: Sportsfile

Trainer Willie Mullins. Photo: Sportsfile

Trainer Willie Mullins. Photo: Sportsfile

Laurina will make her belated seasonal reappearance in tomorrow's Listed Mares' Hurdle at Sandown with connections happy that they will finally get ground in her favour.

Willie Mullins' mare is a general 5/1 second favourite behind Buveur D'Air for the Champion Hurdle in March after a scintillating novice campaign but her seasonal bow has been delayed due to unfavourable ground.

With the going expected to be soft, good to soft in places, the exciting six-year-old will take her place at Sandown with owner Jared Sullivan hoping she can book her Cheltenham Festival ticket with a smart performance against experienced rivals.

"The plan is to run and she's on the boat. Willie 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," Sullivan told the 'Racing Post'.

"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."

Stablemate Benie De Dieux - winner of the Grade One Mares' Hurdle at Cheltenham last year when toppling Apple's Jade - is also likely to kick her season off in the same Sandown race.

There was bad news for another Closutton inmate yesterday when Next Destination was ruled out for the season due to a setback. A dual Grade One-winning novice hurdler last term, he finished third behind Samcro at the Cheltenham Festival.

"Next Destination has had a setback. It's not serious but we've decided to treat it and leave him alone for the rest of this season. He'll go novice chasing next season," said Mullins.

Meanwhile, Gold Cup second Might Bite will not race again until this year's blue riband with Nicky Henderson's exciting chaser having undergone a breathing operation yesterday following two lacklustre displays this season.

"After many discussions with all the relevant professionals, we have decided to cauterise his palate. It is exactly the same procedure we did in 2016," Henderson's Unibet blog said.

"Timing-wise, we are absolutely fine - he'll miss less than two weeks' work, which shouldn't hold him back too much because he's already race fit. But it would almost certainly rule him out of running in anything before the Cheltenham Gold Cup."

Meanwhile, Rachael Blackmore heads to Dundalk tonight seeking to match her jumps exploits on the Flat and Damian English's all-weather veteran Geological holds decent claims for her in the opening handicap (5.0).

Irish Independent