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“She’s fit enough to do herself justice” – Marie’s Rock ready for Long Distance Hurdle reappearance

3 minute read

Nicky Henderson’s Marie’s Rock will make her eagerly-anticipated reappearance in the Coral Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury on Friday.

Newbury Racecourse
Newbury Racecourse Picture: Press Photo

Marie's Rock completed back-to-back Grade 1 wins at Cheltenham and Punchestown last spring before going on to make a successful reappearance when beating the reopposing Dashel Drasher in the Relkeel Hurdle at Prestbury Park in January.

She finished well beaten in an attempt to defend her crown in the Grade 1 Mares' Hurdle at Cheltenham on her next outing but bounced back to form when runner-up in the Liverpool Hurdle over three miles and half a furlong at Aintree a month later.

That outing unlocked plenty of doors for the connections of Marie's Rock and there's little doubt that the Stayers' Hurdle route is their selected path this season.

Tom Palin, racing manager for Middleham Park, said: "It's great to get her out a month and a bit sooner than we were able to last year and she seems in great form with herself," said Palin.

"She went to Newbury last Tuesday, which was a good away day for her as she is quite excitable, and it just helped to burn off some of that freshness and excitement.

"We've had this race in mind since Aintree and she's not missed a day. Her schooling at home has been excellent, her work at home has been excellent and we couldn't be happier with her coming into this.

"She's fit enough to do herself justice. Obviously, she'll come on for it after 230 days off the racetrack, but that's going to be the same for anyone who hasn't had a race."

On the prospect of facing old rivals Dashel Drasher and Paisley Park, Palin added: "It's kind of over to us now, isn't it? We've got the established servants of the staying division in dear old Paisley Park and Dashel Drasher, who we know quite well as we've taken him on twice and come out the right side on both occasions.

"Both horses deserve the utmost respect, but the division is kind of crying out for a slightly younger gun to have their moment in the sun and Marie's Rock seems the likely candidate at this stage.

"Whether that's still the case at 3.08pm on Friday, we'll have to wait and see, but I'm hugely excited about running her in this race, as are the team, and it should firmly establish where we are in the British staying pecking order."

Paisley Park will be looking to land his first Long Distance Hurdle in four seasons, with trainer Emma Lavelle reporting the eleven-year-old to be in fine shape ahead of his reappearance.

She said: "He has just been such a star and is loving his training.

"He looks great, and he went to Newbury for the press morning and had a lovely time just having a gallop round.

"He seems in really good shape, but the proof is always in the running, so we will get him out and we will go and see what happens.

"He's showing at home that he is loving what he is doing, and we have had a good preparation. He schooled really well on Tuesday and was tanking along, so hopefully we will get a feel as to where we are.

"There are going to be horses in there with younger legs, but he has a heart of a lion. He is unbelievable how he keeps turning up and he loves his routine. It's very special to have him and we will just decide race by race where we go."

The Jeremy Scott-trained Dashel Drasher has the advantage of a recent run under his belt having finished a good third in the West Yorkshire Hurdle at Wetherby four weeks ago.

Marie's Rock currently heads the betting at a general 8/11, with Dashel Drasher next best in the market at 3/1.

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