THE domination of the 2018 Cheltenham Festival by two Irish trainers - Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott - was further proven when Mullins won his seventh race of this year's meeting, the Trull House Stud Mares' Novices' Hurdle, with Laurina.
Ridden by Paul Townend, who like Mullins was completing a double after the victory of Penhill in the Stayers' Hurdle, Laurina looked a different class as she toyed with the opposition to run out an impressive winner. The five-year-old mare trounced her rivals by a stunning 18 lengths, more than justifying her position as the 4/7 favourite.
Cap Soleil ran a great race to finish second and Champayne Lady was a short-head away in third, and the pacesetting Maria's Benefit finished fourth.
Odds-on favourite Laurina bolts up in the Mares’ Novices Hurdle @CheltenhamRaces and remains unbeaten in three runs for Willie Mullins who records his third win in the race. #TheFestival— Racing UK (@Racing_UK) March 15, 2018
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Willie Mullins has now won all three runnings of this race and has become the winning-most trainer in Festival history with 61 victories. Mullins said: "It's unbelievable. When you start training you hope for one winner here - that is the greatest aspiration that most Irish trainers have. This isn't something we ever dreamt of because we thought we couldn't do that with a base in Ireland.
Commenting on Laurina's performance, he said: "This mare has more size and scope than either of my previous winners of this race, Limini or Let's Dance. We've always thought she was very, very decent. If they ever ran a mare's chase here at the Festival, she'd be the sort you'd want for it.
"Her two runs at home have been very good here but to do that here. There's a Grade 1 mares' hurdle at Fairyhouse at Easter, so if she recovers enough she might go there.
Laurina and Aisling O'Brien after winning the mares novice hurdle. (Photo : healyracing.ie)
Winning jockey, Paul Townend said: "She's special. You can ride Laurina as you want and she's just a lovely mare." He then added: "It shows how competitive the Irish racing is, I'm lucky to be a part of a real powerhouse yard and I'm grateful for the opportunities."
29 PAGES OF CHELTENHAM COVERAGE IN THE IRISH FIELD THIS WEEKEND