Marie's Rock for trainer Nicky Henderson is looking to bounce back to form on Saturday at Doncaster in the Grade Two Yorkshire Rose Mares’ Hurdle, as the Seven Barrows handler has decided to send her here instead of the Betfair Hurdle.
A race that has been dominated over the years by the Philip Kirby trained Lady Buttons, with her now retired it is the turn of a new mare to take over her honour in the race and Marie's Rock will be looking to do just that.
The six year old daughter of Milan was a model on consistency last term for Nicky Henderson running three times and winning all of her events in good style, stepping up in class in each event.
Having won in May 2019 at Ffos Las in a bumper, in December of that year she made her hurdles debut at Haydock in an Introductory Hurdle and powered away from a smart field by five lengths.
She then headed to Taunton a few weeks later in a Listed Novices' Hurdle and again stepped up to beat some nice horses by eight lengths and she was all set to head to the Cheltenham festival and give Willie Mullins a run for his money in the Mares Novices' Hurdle.
However, she suffered an injury setback that saw her off the track for sometime and she unfortunately missed out on the festival in March.
She made her seasonal return this season at Newbury in the Listed Intermediate Hurdle looking to get back to form having fully recovered from injury and when coming with a challenge ultimately blew up and looked like she needed the run more than the yard thought.
Having now had that run to blow the cobwebs away she should be spot on for a big run at Doncaster on Saturday, getting her first taste of Grade Two action and she will have to be bang on it with a strong field set to go to post.
(Credit ATR) Tom Palin of owners, Middleham Park Racing said: “I had a conversation with her trainer this morning (Tuesday) and barring something out of our hands happening she’ll run at Doncaster.
“She’s a two-mile hurdling mare who we think is graded quality and that’s exactly what this race is. Options for mares in their second and third seasons over two miles are few and far between.
“Our biggest asset is speed so this looks the perfect race, conditions-wise if not weather-wise. It has been in our minds since the start of the season as it ticks so many boxes.
“As soon as she won at Taunton 14 months ago we thought this would be the perfect race for her this year.
“Of course the ground is going to be soft, but she does have a big knee action and hits the ground pretty hard. Obviously you’d rather it be good to soft, but she has handled soft a couple of times and we are racing in January – a very wet one at that.
“What it boiled down to was there’d be a lot more runners in the Betfair, it would be an insane tempo and you forget how lightly-raced she is.
“That probably contributed to her defeat at Newbury, and she was badly hampered. Interestingly Nico (de Boinville) still felt he was going to come and pick them up leading up to the incident two out. Her jumping wasn’t as good as it had been at home, though, which was probably down to inexperience.”