Unibet International Hurdle
|Grade 2, Cheltenham 15:00
2m 179y, Class 1
1 Lossiemouth 4/7F
2 Love Envoi 4/1
3 First Street 12/1
5 ran Distances: 9½l, 1l, nk
Time: 4m 14.87s (slow by 17.87s)
Lossiemouth demonstrated her superiority over her rivals with a flawless return here at Cheltenham.
The Triumph Hurdle winner from last March, trained by Willie Mullins and owned by Rich Ricci, made her first appearance of the season. The decision was made by the connections to focus on a spring campaign at the age of five, considering the potential challenges faced by five-year-olds in their initial full campaign. Drawing from the experiences of Vauban, a Triumph Hurdle winner himself, who encountered difficulties in the season following his triumph, a different approach was chosen this time.
Facing formidable competitors like Love Envoi, who pushed Honeysuckle to the limit in the previous year's Mares' Hurdle, and Rubaud, a Grade Two winner, Lossiemouth moved stylishly through the race. Upon receiving the cue from jockey Paul Townend, she accelerated impressively, stretching her lead to almost 10 lengths over Love Envoi after the final hurdle.
“When I eventually let her off, she just shot off, she’s a beauty.
“She’s done very well and the plan they made to keep her until now was definitely worth the wait today.
“She will be competitive wherever she goes (at Cheltenham) and she’s high-class. She’s physically and mentally matured (from last season) and she was a fair sort as a juvenile too, so she didn’t have to improve and awful lot.
“She couldn’t do more than that today and was impressive.”
Ricci admitted to some nerves before the race, but feels the decision to make a delayed return was justified.
He said: “She’s a very good filly and we’ve always thought the world of her.
“I was 100 per cent nervous coming here today and we took the decision based on Vauban last year, not to enter her until after the new year. Just give her plenty of time to come back.
“Originally we weren’t keen on travelling her and then we thought we would. She was entered everywhere and we decided to come here and it’s paid dividends. She’s a very nice filly to look forward to.
“They tell me she has been bombing at home, so I expected her to run well today and she did.”
While Lossiemouth is entered for the Champion Hurdle at the Festival, Ricci would be favouring the Mares’ Hurdle rather than a clash with Constitution Hill.
He explained: “We’ll go for the Mares’ Hurdle I think and I think we learned last year that these four-year-olds turning five, it is very hard to run in open company.
“She has an entry in the Champion Hurdle, which I think she will probably keep, but my guess would be we would go for the Mares’, then the Annie Power at Punchestown and maybe something in France. Maybe next year she will be a Champion Hurdle type, but we will see.
“Constitution Hill is a monster and I’m not running away from it, but she’s a great filly and you just want to mind her and see how she goes, she’s a baby!
“I’ve never ran away from a fight, but we need to do what is in line with her abilities and she is young and she is coming, so we will just see see how she gets on.
“I haven’t had a winner on the first day (at the Festival) for a long time, wouldn’t that be great. We’ve got lots of hopes for her and fingers crossed it will be a good run with her.”
Unibet International Hurdle (Grade 2)
£130,000 guaranteed, 4yo plus, 2m 179y, Class 1
Going: Good to Soft
POS. DIST HORSE AGE WGT TRAINER JOCKEY SP
1 Lossiemouth 5 11-3 W P Mullins Paul Townend 4/7F
2 9½ Love Envoi 8 11-1 Harry Fry Jonathan Burke 4/1
3 1 First Street 7 11-8 Nicky Henderson James Bowen 12/1
4 nk Rubaud 6 11-10 Paul Nicholls Harry Cobden 8/1
5 1½ Guard Your Dreams 8 11-4 Nigel Twiston-Davies Sam Twiston-Davies 18/1