Marie's Rock in action
Marie's Rock in action

Marie’s Rock has Royal Ascot option after Flat debut

Marie’s Rock is hoping to replicate her successful hurdling career on the Flat as connections target Royal Ascot for her next assignment.

The nine-year-old made the transition while the jumps season was winding down and produced an encouraging debut when fifth at York in the Group Three Bronte Cup last month.

She made a slow start for jockey Jim Crowley in the mile-and-six-furlong contest on the Knavesmire, and was at the rear for much of the race before passing five rivals inside the closing stages to spark some optimism for owners Middleham Park Racing.

Marie’s Rock, who has claimed graded triumphs at Cheltenham, Punchestown and Doncaster over obstacles, is looking to add further titles to her glittering career, with connections believing the Nicky Henderson-trained mare can improve from her first running on the level.

She is lined up for the two-mile-and-six-furlong Queen Alexandra Stakes at the Royal meeting, with the Pontefract Castle Fillies’ Stakes on June 23 also under consideration as a possible alternative.

Her excursion to the Flat is not a flash in the pan, however, as future black-type races are in the works for the versatile mare later this summer before returning to hurdling.

“It was the first time she was on the Flat so you can forgive her that,” said Tom Palin of Middleham Park Racing.

“According to Timeform, she ran to 100 which I think that gives us plenty of scope and plenty of encouragement that there’s avenues to explore on the Flat and we might be able to pick up some black type and maybe a win or two before the more traditional season, for her, begins.

“She will have an entry at Ascot in the Queen Alexandra and there’s also a fillies’ Listed race at Pontefract the day after and that’s over one-mile-four, so a huge discrepancy in distances.

“Jim suggested that distance isn’t really the issue here, she will be perfectly fine over two-mile-six or one-mile-four, just the way the race needs to be set up for her will be the biggest determining factor.

“And we will work on what the ground is. At Ascot you can get the very soft Ascot, she could get the very quick Ascot, so we will look at those two and then it might lead us into a Lillie Langtry at Goodwood – those kind of races.

“There are lots of options for her in those fillies-only staying races.”

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