Laurina Set For Festival Warm Up At Punchestown

Willie Mullins superstar mare Laurina is set to have her second and final run of the season before heading to the Cheltenham festival in March.

February 20th at Punchestown in the 2m4f Listed Coral Quevega Hurdle looks to be the angle that Mullins will go down and this will give us another indication of how good and ready she is for the Champion Hurdle at Prestbury Park.

The unbeaten six year old under Mullins whose price for the Unibet Champion Hurdle can bee seen differently at a spread of bookmakers with 7/2 being the shortest to the highest of 6/1.

She will have to take on dual Champion Hurdle winner over the last two years in the Nicky Henderson trainer Buveur D'Air who scored nicely at Sandown last weekend and is the races favourite at 2/1.

Laurina was the second favourite until Saturday afternoon where Gordon Elliott's super mare Apple's Jade went down to two miles for the first time this season and landed the Grade 1 Irish Champion Hurdle by 16 lengths.

This means that the Mullins mare is now third favourite and will be looking to throw her hat into the mix once more when she sets out at Punchestown for only the second time this season.

She made her seasonal debut at Sandown at the start of the year after being patiently waited on by her trainer due to the drying ground the jumps season has seen.

Eventually fifth January saw her unleashed against just one other competitor in Sensulano who came into the race off the back of a good Class 2 win at Cheltenham.

(Credit BetVictor Racing and Racing TV)

However, She was no match in this Listed Mares Hurdle contest and was ultimately brushed a side by the superstar, who went on to land the race on the soft ground she had been waiting on, by 48 lengths.

Mullins has said that the Quevega Hurdle is the perfect preparation race for his six year old all being well with the weather and the ground conditions.

(Credit Racing Post) Mullins said: "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 1 mares' race at Cheltenham."

Another of the Mullins mares that is being primed for the festival is last seasons Grade 1 OLBG Mares Hurdle on the Tuesday in Benie Des Dieux.

This Rich Ricci owned youngster is yet to be seen this season but will be let loose in either the Red Mills Trial Hurdle at Gowran Park a week on Saturday or the Ladbrokes Ireland Boyne Hurdle at Navan the following day.

Benie Des Dieux will be bidding to defend her title at this years festival and with it looking like Apple's Jade will be heading into the Champion Hurdle, she will not have a better chance.

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