Laurina is a fascinating contender in a reopened field of 11 for this weekend’s Coral Hurdle at Ascot.
Willie Mullins’ Cheltenham Festival winner, unbeaten in four starts since joining Ireland’s champion trainer from France last season, is joined among the entries for Saturday by Gordon Elliott’s Samcro.
The indications from that yard, however, are that Champion Hurdle hope Samcro is most likely to head next to Newcastle’s Grade One Fighting Fifth Hurdle – after missing Sunday’s Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown because of quick ground.
Laurina has won her four races by an aggregate of more than 50 lengths, and had 18 to spare over Cap Soleil in the Trull House Stud Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham – before concluding her campaign by trouncing a Grade One field in the corresponding race at Fairyhouse over Easter.
She also holds an engagement in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle back at Fairyhouse at the start of next month.
Mullins previously won the Coral Hurdle back-to-back in 2013 and 2014 with champions Annie Power and Faugheen.
Among Laurina’s potential rivals as she steps into open company over two miles and three furlongs at Ascot are Nicky Henderson’s duo We Have A Dream and Call Me Lord, both owned by the Isaac Souede and Simon Munir partnership.
We Have A Dream, a top juvenile last season, may potentially renew his rivalry with Harry Fry’s If The Cap Fits after they were both placed behind Henderson’s Elite Hurdle winner Verdana Blue on their returns at Wincanton this month.
Among the remaining six, Old Guard and Lil Rockerfeller catch the eye.
The latter won this race last year for Neil King, has since been successful on the Flat at Glorious Goodwood – and most recently embarked on a novice chase campaign, with a two-out-of-two record over fences so far.
Paul Nicholls’ Old Guard was an admirable third at Cheltenham just two days ago in the Greatwood Hurdle, a race the seven-year-old won back in 2015.