Marie’s Rock will bid to prove a solid choice in the Coral Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle at Kempton on Saturday on the back of her recent win at the Sunbury track.
The seven-year-old mare put her troubles behind her when scoring a convincing success by seven lengths over the course and distance on Boxing Day.
Connections are now optimistic of another big performance, as Marie’s Rock leads trainer Nicky Henderson’s charge for a fourth win this race in 10 years – and fifth in all.
“She had a little niggle here, an issue there, but she came back this season in a completely different mindset and is a completely different horse.
“She’s not missed a day and we’ve not had any problems,” said Tom Palin, of owners Middleham Park Racing.
“She’d gradually been building towards what we saw on Boxing Day. The Wetherby reappearance was good, her Cheltenham run was good so it was no surprise to see her put in that kind of performance. She hadn’t done that since Taunton almost two years ago.
“On previous renewals she ticks a lot of boxes ahead of this race. I hope there’s more to come, but we have always held her in very high regard.”
Paul Nicholls expects Gelino Bello to put up a good show after having to give best to Irish trainer Charles Byrnes’ bright prospect Blazing Khal in Grade Two novice hurdles at Cheltenham on his last two starts.
“A really good horse has beaten him the last twice. His form is good and he is improving with experience and he jumps nicely,” said the Ditcheat trainer.
“He is a pleasant horse at home that does everything nicely and I’ve always liked him. Like a lot of ours, he will be a lovely chaser next season.
“Off 138 it puts him in there with a chance on the form of his last two runs at Cheltenham.”
Jamie Snowden feels Up For Parol will be suited by the track at Kempton after making a successful switch back to the smaller obstacles at Haydock four weeks ago.
After the six-year-old was only fourth on his chasing debut at Ffos Las, the Lambourn trainer had no doubts about going back to timber.
“Up for Parol was a decent novice hurdler last season. He does like a bit of cut in the ground and the Persian War at Chepstow was a bit quick for him,” said Snowden.
“We sent him chasing at Ffos Las, but that didn’t work so we put him back over hurdles and he won well at Haydock last time out.
“He has done all his winning on flat tracks so I would have thought Kempton will be fine for him.
“I suppose this would be our biggest winner of the season if he won.”
Evan Williams is hoping his two runners, Dans Le Vent and Bold Plan, will make their presence felt. Dans Le Vent won a valuable handicap hurdle at Haydock in November, while the application of cheekpieces could help revitalise Bold Plan’s fortunes.
“Dans Le Vent has had a wonderful season and ran a good race in Cheltenham last time. He’s done a brilliant job for us. He’s up in the weights, but we’ll give it a go.
“Bold Plan lost his way over fences last year, but on his day he’s more than capable. The sheepskins first time might help him. If he bounces back to form, he’s definitely at the right end of the weights.”
Other leading contenders include Green Brook, who is on a hat-trick for Venetia Williams after wins at Haydock and Ludlow, and the Philip Hobbs-trained Earth Lord – another on a three-timer, having most recently won at Ascot.