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Laurina given excellent opportunity to get back on track in Quevega Mares Hurdle

1.40 Punchestown

Quevega Mares Hurdle (Grade 3) | 2m4f | 4yo+ | RTV

She may have proved worryingly disappointing on her last two starts over fences, but this looks too good an opportunity for Laurina to pass up now reverting to hurdles.

An impressive six-length success over Stormy Ireland in this contest 12 months ago saw Willie Mullins' talented mare sent off at 5-2 for the Champion Hurdle in March, where she ran flat and finished fourth. It has not been plain sailing for her since.

The Sullivan Bloodstock Limited-owned seven-year-old made a bright start over fences at Gowran in November against Minella Indo but the wheels came off for her when bursting blood vessels during a lifeless Leopardstown display over Christmas.

What followed was an underwhelming effort in the Scilly Isles Novices' Chase at Sandown 18 days ago, pulling up after failing to get into a rhythm under Nico de Boinville as the 5-4 favourite, leaving her with questions to answer.

The 2018 Dawn Run Mares' Novices' Hurdle winner holds entries in the Close Brothers Mares' Hurdle, RSA Chase, Marsh Novices' Chase and Paddy Power Stayers' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

The conditions of the race, which has been upgraded to Grade 3 status this year, could not suit her any better and a return to winning ways looks more likely than not.

She receives 3lb from stablemate Elfile despite being rated 17lb superior, while recent Dublin Racing Festival handicap heroine Black Tears gets 3lb from Laurina.

If the five-runner affair was run on handicap terms, the likely hot favourite would have to give 18lb to the Gordon Elliott-trained mare.

The Cullentra handler is also represented in the 2m4f event by the Gigginstown-owned Grade 3 scorer Surin, who was unfortunate to be brought down in the race won by her stablemate at Leopardstown earlier this month.

Elfile, a winner at last year's Punchestown festival, arrives here on the back of an excellent second to stablemate Stormy Ireland at Leopardstown over Christmas, while Jessica Harrington's Emily Moon, a mare likely better than her current mark of 129, faces a tough task at the weights.

Key stat

Willie Mullins has won the race named after his legendary Cheltenham Festival heroine Quevega five times in the last six years.

What they say

Willie Mullins, trainer of Laurina and Elfile
Laurina didn't seem to enjoy jumping fences at Sandown last time so we'll see how she gets on back over hurdles now. Hopefully it could be a good confidence booster for her. Elfile is a nice mare and I think conditions should suit her, but if Laurina runs to her rating she'll be hard to beat.

Gordon Elliott, trainer of Black Tears and Surin
They both ran in the same race at Leopardstown last time when Surin didn't have luck on her side. We were thrilled with Black Tears, she's a very good mare on her day. She'll have a couple of entries at Cheltenham but we'll see how this goes before making any decisions.

Jessica Harrington, trainer of Emily Moon
I was delighted with how she ran at Leopardstown last time. On ratings we're obviously up against it, but if you're not in you can't win and we'd love to sneak some black type.

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