©© Photo Healy Racing
Cheltenham Festival winners Laurina and Minella Indo will lock horns on their respective debuts over fences at Gowran Park on Saturday.
The Willie Mullins-trained Laurina 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 nevertheless remains a top-class prospect ahead of her first start over the larger obstacles in the two-and-a-half-mile Irish Stallion Farms EBF Beginners Chase.
Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father, said: “Laurina looks made for chasing and we’ve been happy with her schooling at home.
“Gowran is our local track and the soft ground is a help, but Minella Indo is a fierce opponent on her fencing debut.”
Henry de Bromhead’s Minella Indo was a surprise winner of the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham in March, but proved that victory was no fluke when completing a Grade One double at the Punchestown Festival in early May.
De Bromhead said: “We’re looking forward to getting him started. No matter where we go it seems to be very competitive at the moment.
“I hope he’ll make up into a good chaser. We’ll get him started and see how we go.”
Elsewhere on the card, Mullins’ high-class bumper performer Mt Leinster makes his jumping bow in the I.N.H. Stallion Owners EBF Maiden Hurdle. His opponents include Gordon Elliott’s recent Down Royal victor Easywork.
Four previous winners contest the Ladbrokes Novice Hurdle, with Liz Doyle’s Cayd Boy, the Mullins-trained Franco De Port and Noel Meade’s Sixshooter all protecting unbeaten records against De Bromhead’s recent Cork victor Tiger Voice.
The 20,000 euro Talbot Hotel Carlow Chase is another interesting affair, with Mullins’ Getabird, Elliott’s Mengli Khan and De Bromhead’s Paloma Blue among five runners.