Laurina is clear favourite for next year’s Arkle Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival with most bookmakers after making a perfect start to her career over fences at Gowran Park.
The Willie Mullins-trained mare was a jaw-dropping 18-length winner of the Dawn Run Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at Prestbury Park in March 2018 – and returned to the Cotswolds last season as a leading hope for the Champion Hurdle.
While she performed below expectations in finishing fourth, she was unsurprisingly a warm order on her chasing and seasonal bow in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Beginners Chase – despite the presence of Henry de Bromhead’s dual Grade One-winning hurdler Minella Indo.
Always jumping well in the hands of Paul Townend, the 3-10 favourite moved into the lead before the home turn and ultimately had far too many guns for her fellow Cheltenham Festival winner – passing the post with eight lengths in hand.
Mullins said: “That was a very good first run over fences. She showed a good bit of toe, albeit against a three-mile horse.
“She is one to look forward to with the long-range plan probably the new mares’ chase at Cheltenham in 2021!
“She’s a fine, big mare that can take fences in her stride – she’s one that we are excited about.
“I wouldn’t mind going back to two miles, but Paul thought that trip is probably what she wants.
“The obvious target would be the Grade One race in Limerick over Christmas, but I think Faugheen might be going there.
“There may be a race for mares that we could look at – even a race not against novices.”
Laurina was completing a treble on the afternoon for Mullins and Townend.
French recruit Franco De Port (6-5 favourite) made a successful Irish debut in the Ladbrokes Novice Hurdle, while Getabird (8-15 favourite) made a winning start to his season in the featured Talbot Hotel Carlow Chase.
“Franco De Port has been doing everything nicely at home. He’ll stay and could go out in trip, but I’d be happy enough to stick to two miles for the time being,” said Mullins.
“It’s good to see Getabird back. He was keen early on in the race, but he jumped well, especially over the last – when he wanted one to win, he gave it to Paul.
“I’m not sure where he will go next, but right-handed would suit him.”
Easywork was an impressive winner of the I.N.H. Stallion Owners EBF Maiden Hurdle.
Gordon Elliott’s recent Down Royal bumper winner was the 11-8 favourite to make a successful debut over flights, but faced a far from straightforward task, with the Mullins-trained Mt Leinster bringing high-class bumper form to the table.
There was not much to choose between the pair rounding the home turn, but Davy Russell cut a confident figure in the saddle aboard the marginal leader Easywork and he passed the post with a length and a half in hand without being fully extended.
“There is a nice bit of improvement in him and he’ll be a grand horse when he jumps a fence. Whatever he does this year will only be a bonus for next year,” said Elliott.
Noel Meade’s Dinard Rose justified 8-13 favouritism in the opening Timmy Maher Memorial 3-Y-O Maiden Hurdle under 7lb claimer Eoin Walsh.
Meade said: “She’s not very big, but has the potential to be pretty decent because she does jump well.
“She goes on any ground and hopefully she’ll keep improving.”