Dornan Group Relkeel Hurdle

MARIE’S Rock (Nicky Henderson/Nico de Boinville) threatened to go the wrong way after a promising start over hurdles, but she has been transformed in the last 12 months and gained her fourth blacktype race on the bounce with a comprehensive six-length win in the Grade 2 Relkeel Hurdle on her belated return.

Winner of the David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle here in March and the Grade 1 Annie Power Mares’ Hurdle at Punchestown last spring, she took another step forward to beat Dashel Drasher and First Street here, returning at the rewarding odds of 11/2.

Marie’s Rock was once far too keen to harness her undoubted talent, but looks much more tractable in recent times, and she may do better still given this was her first run for eight months. She may well run into Honeysuckle and Epatante as she bids to follow up her Festival win from 12 months ago, but I for one would not want to lay against her in that contest.

River flows on

Midnight River caught the eye when running into the frame in the Paddy Power Gold Cup here in November and built on that to take the New Year’s Day Handicap Chase at an SP of 6/1, beating Stolen Silver (Sam Thomas/Sam Twiston-Davies) who had unseated when favourite for that earlier contest.

The winning margin was two and a quarter lengths, and the principals could well meet again in the Festival Plate over track and trip come March.