Marie’s Rock will be vying to be a solid choice at the Coral Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle in Kempton on Saturday after her recent victory at the Sunbury track.
The seven-year-old mare threw her troubles behind her when she recorded convincing success at Boxing Day by seven lengths on the track and distance.
Connections is now optimistic about the next big performance, as Marie’s Rock leads coach Nicky Henderson to his fourth victory in the race in 10 years – and fifth of all.
“She grinned a little, there was a problem, but she returned this season with a completely different mind and is a completely different horse.”
“She didn’t miss a day and we had no problems,” said Tom Palin, owner of Middleham Park Racing.
“She was gradually getting closer to what we saw on Boxing Day. The rediscovery in Wetherby was good, her run in Cheltenham was good, so it was no surprise that she had done such a performance. She hadn’t done so since Taunton almost two years earlier.
“During previous restorations before this race, she ticked a lot of boxes. I hope more come, but we have always respected her very much.”
Paul Nicholls expects Gelino Bello to put on a good show after having to give the best of Irish coach Charles Byrnes Blazing Khal’s best-in-second standings in Cheltenham during his last two starts.
“A really good horse beat him twice last time. His form is good and he improves with experience and jumps nicely,” coach Ditcheat said.
“It’s a nice horse at home that does everything nicely and I’ve always liked it. Like a lot of ours, it will be a beautiful hound next season as well.”
“From 138 onwards, it gives him a chance to form his last two rides in Cheltenham.”
Jamie Snowden feels that Up For Parol will suit the track in Kempton after successfully moving back to the minor hurdles in Haydock four weeks ago.
After the six-year-old was only fourth on his Ffos Las fighter debut, Lambourne’s coach had no doubts about returning to the woods.
“Up for Parol was a decent starting obstacle last season. He likes a bit of a cut in the country and the Persian war in Chepstow was a bit fast for him,” Snowden said.
“We sent him to chase him to Ffos Las, but it didn’t work, so we brought him back over the obstacles and he won well in Haydock last time.”
“He achieved all his victories on the flat tracks, so I thought Kempton would be fine for him.”
“I guess if he won, he would be our biggest winner of the season.”
Evan Williams hopes that his two runners, Dans Le Vent and Bold Plan, will make their presence felt. Dans Le Vent won a valuable handicap hurdle in Haydock in November, while applying cheeks could help revive Bold Plan’s wealth.
“Dans Le Vent had a great season and did a good race in Cheltenham last time. He did a great job for us. He’s upstairs in the scales, but we’ll try.”
“The bold plan lost its way over the fences last year, but it’s more than capable in its day. Sheepskins can help him for the first time. If he gets back in shape, he’s definitely at the right end of the scale.”
Other top candidates include Green Brook, who has a hat-trick for Venetia Williams after winning Haydock and Ludlow, and Lord Earth Lord, coached by Philip Hobbs – another triple, last won at Ascot.