Rock on Marie!
OUR 1st WINNER OF 2023: MARIE'S ROCK, trained by Nicky Henderson OBE and ridden by Nico de Boinville: 'The Grade 2 email@example.com Relkeel Hurdle' over 2m 4.5f at Cheltenham.
Carrying a Group 1 winners penalty, this was her first start for 246 days, since winning the Grade 1 Mares' Champion Hurdle, at the Punchestown Festival.
Setting off, towards the back of the field, she pulled her way to 3rd by the second hurdle. Nico got her on the inner and remained prominent, but she was still a little free. Coming to the home turn, the pace quickened and she went second, still not off the bridle. Jumping the last upsides Dashel Drasher, Nico gave her the shake up and she ran on well, winning readily by 6 lengths in front of the wonderful packed stands at Cheltenham - not for the first time!
"Marie's Rock and Nico de Boinville galloping on resolutely to win The Relkeel." Watch the full race replay here: https://www.racingtv.com/videos/watch/horse_racing_replays/425714-careers-dornangroup-com-relkeel-hurdle-grade-2-1
Nico said in his Racing TV interview:
See the official photo gallery here: https://www.grossick.co.uk/p/80532khg/C385500648/x5-marie-s-rock.
There were whoops of delight from her owners, who were there with family and friends. We are grateful to ITV Racing for their coverage and post race interviews with them. They were thrilled when Zara Tindall presented them with their prizes on the podium too!
Timeform rated it as a career best 151 performance, saying: "After 8 months off, proved better than ever, taking on geldings after winning twice at Grade 1 level against her own sex last spring, well positioned in a race that wasn't run at a flat-out gallop but still doing it well, a return here to defend her Mares' Hurdle crown on the cards, though the prospect of Epatante and even Honeysuckle running there to avoid Constitution Hill makes that a potentially very strong renewal; never far away, took keen hold, loomed up after 2 out, shaken up straight, challenged last, led run-in, kept on well, ridden out.”
She made the front cover of our industry news paper - for two days in a row! You can read what syndicate manager Tom said after the race, in the Racing Post, here: https://www.racingpost.com/news/race-reports/maries-rock-makes-a-stirring-return-at-cheltenham-to-start-new-year-in-style/594335
A perfect start to 2023! This super mare has given her syndicate of owners the best of times. A dual Grade 1 winner, dual Listed winner and now a Grade 2 win to add to her CV. Well done to them, Nicky for getting her ready and Nico for enjoying the ride as much as we do! Roll on The Festivals!