Laurina glides in to send Mullins to the top of all-time festival trainers' list
It was a historic victory that edged Willie Mullins to the summit of the Cheltenham Festival trainers’ roll of honour and Paul Townend may never enjoyed going through the motions as much as this.
Laurina demolished vastly inferior opposition en route to maintaining Mullins’ 100 per cent record in the Trull House Novices’ Hurdle, a Grade 2 inaugurated in 2016 and registered in memory of his father Paddy’s legendary mare Dawn Run.
Given the emphatic nature of the performance, talk will inevitably turn to whether this intimidating, athletic individual could be cut from a similarly rare cloth.
Time will reveal whether such suggestions are fanciful, but, on this day, Townend was able to bask in the glow of Laurina’s brilliance.
He had come into Thursday under a bit of pressure and had the cut of a man knowing he needed a favourable bounce of the ball to open the release valve.
Second in the Champion Hurdle and Champion Chase, he got off the Coral Cup winner Bleu Berry to ride Max Dynamite, and then Un De Sceaux also filled the runner-up berth in the Ryanair.
For a fellow supposedly making hay in the wake of Ruby Walsh’s injury, Townend's frustration was understandable.
Then Penhill got home in the Stayers’ Hurdle and all of a sudden the gloom was lifted. Townend walked into the parade ring to partner Laurina with a smile on his face and returned afterwards sporting an ever broader one. “I was able to enjoy that, especially with the way she did it,” he admitted.
“Penhill was a huge relief as much as anything, given the way things were going. I got off Bleu Berry and Un De Sceaux getting beaten was a kick in the teeth as well. Thankfully Penhill got the ball rolling and this mare has kept it going. Roll on tomorrow.”
As stablemate Cut The Mustard, sporting the same Jared Sullivan silks as the winner, softened up Maria’s Benefit on the front end, Townend eased Laurina into the race as they swung down the hill to the second-last.
She flicked through the final flight but danced home 18 lengths clear of Cap Soleil to prompt comparisons with the likes of Annie Power and Quevega. Townend wasn’t in the mood to dampen expectations.
“She's special, very special,” he beamed after his eighth festival success. “She's a fine big mare and has a lovely attitude as well, so she's a dream to have. She's hacked up.
"She'd be a very good hurdler and has the size and scope to jump a fence. Wherever she pitches up she'll give a good account of herself.”
Mullins was no less effusive of his 61st festival winner.
“We’ve always thought she was very, very decent," he said. "If they ever ran a mares’ chase at the festival she’d be the sort you’d want for it. There’s a mares’ race at Fairyhouse at Easter, so if she recovers she might go there.”
In justifying her status as an Irish banker, Laurina landed some major bets, including one of £30,000 to win £18,462 reported by Star Sports.
It's anyone's guess whether that punter, or Townend, had any anxious moments at all. The outcome never looked anything less than a formality.
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