Smart Money's On Coral Quevega Mares Hurdle (Listed) | 2m4f, 4yo+ | RTV
Credible opponents to Buveur D'Air were not obvious until recently, but after Apple's Jade threw her hat into ring for Champion Hurdle glory after a stunning victory at Leopardstown this month, Willie Mullins will be hoping his star mare Laurina can do likewise on Wednesday.
In a Punchestown race which carries the name of the sensational six-time Mares' Hurdle winner Quevega, Laurina puts her unbeaten record since joining the champion trainer on the line against six rivals.
Mullins, whose six-year-old is owned by Sullivan Bloodstock and is general 7-2 third favourite for the Unibet Champion Hurdle, said: "We're happy with Laurina and looking forward to running her. We'd like to see some rain but the plan is to run."
Laurina has run just once this season, finishing 48 lengths ahead of sole rival Sensulano in a Listed mares' contest at Sandown early last month.
That was the first time Ruby Walsh had sat on last season's Mares Novice winner in public and the legendary rider is looking forward to being back aboard.Walsh told Racing TV: "Stormy Ireland and Good Thyne Tara are a good bit better than the mare she beat at Sandown so she'll be asked more of a question at Punchestown.
"She seems to be in great form at home and this race has proved a good stepping stone to Cheltenham in recent years – it fits in nicely."
On Stormy Ireland and Good Thyne Tara, Mullins' other runners in the race, the trainer added: "Rain would be welcome for Stormy Ireland, who is in good form.
"Good Thyne Tara has had a good season and has shown she is adaptable in terms of ground and distance."
The remainder of the Punchestown opposition comprises of the Gordon Elliott-trained Lackaneen Leader, Jessica Harrington's Alletrix, Slowmotion from the Joseph O'Brien yard, and Mary Frances, trained by Martin Hassett.