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Mrs Milner handed Grade One Cheltenham assignment

Mrs Milner will bid to put a Newbury disappointment behind her when she lines up for the Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

The Paul Nolan-trained mare was a five-length winner of the Pertemps Network Final Hurdle at the showpiece fixture last season, triumphing at 12-1 under Bryan Cooper in the 22-runner handicap.

This term she began her campaign at Limerick in the Listed Cailin Alainn Mares Hurdle, a race she won by a length and a half having started as the evens favourite.

After that performance Nolan sent Mrs Milner across the Irish Sea to contest the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury, a three-mile event in which she took on five rivals and finished fourth when reported to be out of sorts by Cooper.

A step down in trip is now on the agenda as the seven-year-old is set to take up an engagement in the Grade One Mares’ Hurdle on the opening afternoon.

Mrs Milner on her way to victory at the Cheltenham Festival in 2021
Mrs Milner on her way to victory at the Cheltenham Festival in 2021 (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“She’s run twice at Cheltenham and she was second and then won, we’ve freshened her up since Newbury and we’re hoping we’ll see a different mare in Cheltenham,” said Nolan.

“At Newbury I don’t think at any stage of the whole race Bryan was really happy with her, normally she’d run to the line and that day she didn’t.

“A lot of the horses didn’t, it was a funny sort of race as they went quite quick.

“It was just one of those things, I think she was a bit flat.

“Bryan wasn’t happy with her at any point and that’s what we’re putting it down to, hopefully she can rectify that.”

Bryan Cooper following victory in the Pertemps Hurdle
Bryan Cooper following victory in the Pertemps Hurdle (Michael Steele/PA)

The Cheltenham contest is run over two and a half miles – half a mile less than the Pertemps but a trip Nolan is hoping will be made more stamina-sapping if ground conditions come in her favour.

“She improved with the step up in trip for the Pertemps last year, now we’re going back in trip and the ground is going to probably be a bit softer unless the forecast changes,” he said.

“It’s going to be a good race, but hopefully she’ll run respectably and go well.”

At the Festival Nolan will also run HMS Seahorse, a son of Galileo who ran to a respectable level on the Flat for Aidan O’Brien before changing hands.

HMS Seahorse after his Fairyhouse success
HMS Seahorse after his Fairyhouse success (PA)

Third behind Pied Piper and Vauban on his hurdling debut, the chestnut then went on to finish second on his next outing before winning a Fairyhouse maiden in February by a length and a quarter.

The four-year-old, who is full-brother to multiple Group-race winner Armory, will now head to the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle.

“He’s good, he’s a tough little horse who so far has had no setbacks,” Nolan said.

“He’s just doing his normal routine as he’s had his three runs, we’ve not needed to rush him for any reason.

“So far he hasn’t given us any complications, there’s no reason at all why he shouldn’t run well.”

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