Vroum Vroum Mag tests staying power at Ascot
Connections of Vroum Vroum Mag are hopeful she can take a step up in trip in her stride when making her eagerly-awaited first start in Britain in the OLBG.com Mares' Hurdle at Ascot on Saturday.
The seven-year-old will race beyond two and three-quarter miles for the first time when tackling the Grade Two affair over an extended two-mile-seven-furlongs as she bids to make it eight straight victories since joining Willie Mullins.
Joe Chambers, racing manager to owner Rich Ricci, said: "We are sticking to mares' company and this gives us a chance to try her at three miles. Depending how she goes she will either have less or more options in March.
"She won over two and three-quarter miles at Limerick last March and that was over fences - hopefully she will get the trip. I think it's probably her toughest test as I think Aurore D'Estruval is a very good mare, while The Govaness is also in there.
"A lot of these mares' races see the same horses take each other on, so I think it will be a decent test for her and a chance to see if she gets the trip. It's a race that suits."
Mullins said: "It will give us a better indication (of Cheltenham target), if she handles this well it will open up the other options for her. "
Having won the past two renewals with Highland Retreat in 2014 and Bitofapuzzle 12 months ago, trainer Harry Fry's chances of completing a hat-trick rest with course scorer Desert Queen.
He said: "She ran very well last time under top weight, giving lots of weight to the winner (Cannon Fodder), who is also in the race on Saturday. She meets her off level weights this time.
"The Irish horse Vroum Vroum Mag is an unknown quantity. It will be a strong pace and I'd be delighted if she could follow in the footsteps of Bitofapuzzle, who won it last year, and Highland Retreat won it the year before."
Rebecca Curtis believes Aurore D'Estruval will show a marked improvement on her run in the Relkeel Hurdle on New Year's Day, with the step up in trip expected to be in her favour.
Curtis said: "I'm looking forward to trying her over this trip as she does stay and gallop well. I think three miles might suit her.
"She'll definitely be aimed at the Mares' Hurdle at Cheltenham, but she might be able to go up in trip later on in the spring if she proves it suits her on Saturday.
"I was really pleased with her run in Relkeel as she was wrong at the weights and was taking on the boys. She should improve a lot for that run, so we'll see what she can do this weekend."