Laurina a risky favourite if charting same path as other Sullivan-owned movers
Coral Hurdle (Grade 2) | 2m3½f | 4yo+ | ITV/Sky
There was plenty of excitement at Ditcheat earlier this year when Paul Nicholls was sent some serious firepower by top owner Jared Sullivan, who decided to have all his horses trained in Britain.
The 11-time champion trainer was sent a dozen horses who were formerly trained by Willie Mullins, but the majority have made an inauspicious start for the stable.
Only one of the eight newly acquired Sullivan-owned horses has made a winning start and two of them were beaten at odds-on, including one who was turned over at 1-4.
That is a modest strike-rate by Nicholls’ standards and they have also underperformed according to market expectations, for an actual/expected winners (A/E) figure of just 0.45. In short, they have won less than half the races that would have been reasonably expected by the market.
Some of the deficit can probably be explained by them being overbet. The majority are high-profile and, add to that Nicholls’ standing in the game, his runners are always going to attract a weight of money. That isn’t conducive to producing a high A/E figure.
However, it would have been right to expect more than one of the Sullivan eight to have made a winning start and a more plausible explanation is that the majority have simply taken time to settle in and adapt to the regime at Ditcheat. So what does that mean for Laurina, who makes her eagerly anticipated start for Nicholls here?
History tells us Nicholls will almost certainly get the best from her and his other new runners in time, but recent evidence suggests Laurina is unlikely to be at her best on her reappearance.
Laurina has a career-best Racing Post Rating of 158, achieved at Sandown in January 2019, and her best figure in the last 12 months was 150, which came over fences last November.
If we take the lower figure as a conservative estimate, Laurina has 5lb in hand of Call Me Lord’s best figure in the last 12 months, which was achieved when second in this race last year. Laurina is also 9lb clear of Song For Someone.
Comparing the RPRs achieved by the seven Sullivan runners who made their debut for Nicholls over jumps this season (the other, Saglawy, started off on the Flat), they all recorded figures ranging from 3lb to 25lb lower than their career best.
The average works out at 7.6lb below form, but that is probably skewed by the heavy defeat of 1-4 favourite Dolcita at Hereford and she bled from the nose. Therefore, it might be better to ignore the average and use the median which comes out at exactly 5lb.
It doesn’t always work out as it should on paper, but if Laurina follows the same pattern as her the other Sullivan horses and runs 5lb below her best RPR in the last 12 months, and Call Me Lord reproduces the same figure he achieved here last year, we will have some race on our hands – there’s nothing between them.
Graeme Rodway, tipster
'We'll learn a lot about Laurina'
Paul Nicholls described the Grade 2 Coral Hurdle as a "good starting point" for Laurina, who makes her first start for the trainer at Ascot.
The seven-year-old won on her chase debut last November but was pulled up on her next two starts. She was last seen finishing third in a Grade 3 mares' hurdle at Punchestown under Paul Townend before having a wind operation in June.
"She seems well," said Nicholls, who won this race with two-time King George winner Silviniaco Conti in 2010. "She had an issue with bleeding last year and ran ordinary towards the end of the season. We'll learn a lot about her at Ascot. It's a good starting point."
Laurina will likely be sent off favourite in the three-runner contest, which also includes last year's runner-up Call Me Lord, who was fourth on his reappearance at Aintree for Nicky Henderson.
He finished down the field in last season's Champion Hurdle, having won the Grade 2 International Hurdle at Cheltenham from Ballyandy.
"He needed the run two weeks ago when fourth at Aintree and hopefully that has brought him on," said Anthony Bromley, racing manager to Call Me Lord's owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede.
"He has a bit on his plate in terms of the race conditions. He's giving Laurina almost a stone. The penalty structure makes it a tough ask."
Tom Symonds is aware of the task facing Song For Someone, who lines up under Nico de Boinville, with Daryl Jacob riding Call Me Lord.
The five-year-old finished second in a Grade 3 handicap hurdle at Ascot in January before beating Diego Du Charmil by half a length in the Grade 2 Kingwell Hurdle at Kempton just over a month later.
"He's had a few possible engagements – we would like to have run him at Aintree in April – but this looks an ideal race," said Symonds.
"He's run over this trip before and the ground should suit him. He's having to give weight away to Laurina but we're hopeful of a big run.
"Things were always going to be tough for him after his Kingwell win but he's still young and improving. We're looking forward to it."
Reporting by Jonathan Harding
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