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Lossiemouth makes impressive Cheltenham comeback

Lossiemouth proved in a different league to her rivals as she made a faultless return in the Unibet Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Winner of the Triumph Hurdle last March, she was having her first run of the season as trainer Willie Mullins and owner Rich Ricci made the decision to focus on a spring campaign at five.

Five-year-olds can struggle in their first full campaign and the travails of Vauban, himself a Triumph Hurdle winner, the season after means connections have opted for a different approach this time.

Lossiemouth was taking on Love Envoi, who made Honeysuckle pull out all the stops in last year’s Mares’ Hurdle and Rubaud, a Grade Two winner in his own right, but they were left toiling.

Lossiemouth (4-7 favourite) travelled stylishly through the race and once given the signal by Townend, she sprinted almost 10 lengths clear of Love Envoi after the last.

She is now the 4-6 favourite with Coral for the Mares’ Hurdle and Townend said: “It was a pleasure to ride and very straightforward, she was very slick and accurate.

“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.”

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