Marie's Rock is a Dual Grade 1 Winner!
WINNER 38 OF 2022: MARIE'S ROCK, trained by Nicky Henderson OBE and ridden by Nico de Boinville: 'The GRADE 1 Coolmore Kew Gardens Irish EBF Mares Champion Hurdle, over 2m 3f at The Punchestown Festival.
When she won the Grade 1 at The Cheltenham Festival, on March 15th, it took us days for this amazing achievement to sink in. Tom, our National Hunt Manager sent an update to her syndicate after this win, telling them that he had this race at Punchestown in mind for her, but that we would see how she came out of the race. Up 7lbs since her win, Nicky has been telling us how well she was at home since Cheltenham and so the plan was set and the countdown was on! Then 6-time Grade 1 winner Epatante was declared and suddenly it was a Seven Barrows 'race within a race' - and that race was another Grade 1 with the de Bromhead, Mullins and Nolan Irish home team also eyeing up the €125,000 pot and Grade 1 glory.
24 owners and their guests travelled over and we must thank Punchestown for being of such great help. The only concern we had was how Marie's Rock would take the same journey, but all went really well and the first 'hurdle' was overcome!
Cool, calm and collected in the preliminaries, she wore the red hood that served her well at Cheltenham and as she cantered to the start, owners found their 'spot' to watch the race. At the off, Nico had her handy as the leader Stormy Island pulled well away from the field. Marie's Rock settled into 3rd with Epatante in behind and the order stayed that way until well past halfway. The pace was lifted again with 3 to go and she moved to dispute second with Epatante alongside. Although the leader looked to have flown, she kept on well approaching the last, as Epatante needed reminders. She jumped it well and ran down Stormy Island, showing the turn of foot we saw up the hill at Cheltenham, to take the lead in the run-in, winning by 1 and a 1/4 lengths. Owners were literally jumping for joy!
"Marie's Rock is the Coolmore EBF Champion!" Watch the full race replay here: https://www.racingtv.com/videos/watch/horse_racing_replays/381697-coolmore-kew-gardens-irish-european-breeders-fund-mares-champion-hurdle-annie-power-grade-1
There were amazing scenes as owners greeted her in the winners enclosure to cheers and applause. Nico was equally thrilled waving at the crowd as they walked back in.
A great ride by Nico. Here he is talking after the race, with Nicky:
Here's Nicky giving his post race interview We must thank him for his very kind words:
Timeform gave her a 147 rating and say: "Sent off at double-figure odds again, proved that there was no fluke about her Cheltenham win to complete a hat-trick, stamina rather than speed gaining the day this time; chased leaders, not fluent fourth and fifth, went prominent end of back straight, ridden entering straight, rider dropped whip last, stayed on to lead final 100 yds despite again carrying her head a bit awkwardly; worth a try at 3m should connections feel the need."
Thank you to Irish Stallion Farms #IrishEBF for the use of their photographs. See the official photograph gallery here: https://www.healyracing.ie/#/gallery/30-4-22-punchestown/397maries-rock-02/
Syndicate manager Tom says: "Well that again was brilliant! Nico gave her another good ride, as the margins involved of settling her and not giving the leader too much rope was very fine but he got it spot on yet again. Her customary turn of foot was once again used to good effect and put the race to bed just after the last. We confirmed that Cheltenham was no fluke and that we have one of the best mares in training on our hands (that’s a scary sentence to write!) It was a brilliant day at Punchestown and I’m sure the celebrations back in England were just as lively!
Our queen has arrived back at Seven Barrows now and is rather proud of herself. She will now have a well deserved holiday back up to Ann Duffield’s where she spent last Summer. There a very few syndicates who own a Dual Grade 1 Winner, so congratuLations to her owners and thank you to Nicky and his team and Nico for this amazing achievement. For us at Middleham Park Racing, it is phenomenal to now have 5 top level Group 1 and Grade 1 winners, we are still pinching ourselves!"
Read the related story by Sky Sports Racing, here: https://www.skysports.com/racing/news/12426/12602918/maries-rock-steals-the-show-for-henderson
Read the related story by The Racing Post, here: https://www.racingpost.com/news/race-reports/mariess-rock-runs-down-brave-stormy-ireland-in-mares-champion-hurdle/553445