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Newbury horse racing preview and tips: Marie's Rock ready to step up in Long Distance Hurdle


Our resident horse racing expert Jake Russell takes an indepth look at the six horses lining up for the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury

15:00 Newbury: Coral Long Distance Hurdle (Grade 2) (3 miles 52 yards)

By @ Jake Russell

The Grade 2 Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury on Friday is the first real race where we get to see one or two of the top staying hurdlers in action, before they head to the Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot and beyond.

A staying hurdle legend Paisley Park is back in action for another season, as he looks to blow the cobwebs away in this before attempting to land his fourth Long Walk Hurdle in a few weeks time, looking to mirror Baracouda who won the race four times in five years during the early 2000's.

Paisley Park

  • Jockey: Tom Bellamy
  • Trainer: Emma Lavelle

Where better to start than with the legend himself, Emma Lavelle's star horse Paisley Park, who comes back for another season seeking a race at the highest level once again, something he has done for around five or so seasons now.

His form at the back end of last season did go a bit sour, although 3rd place in the Stayers’ Hurdle at the Festival, he was well beaten by 10 lengths, before coming 7th in the Liverpool Hurdle, well beaten by 13 lengths and never really travelling all that well.

One thing that could have been a factor is that the yard’s horses weren't going so well last term, so the fact he was still able to land a Grade 1 and only just get beaten in this race last year shows the character of this horse. The ability to run well when the yard isn't firing on all cylinders shows his class.

As mentioned he ran very well in this contest last year, battling it out all the way to the line to only just be touched off by Champ, who won the race by a neck.

Paisley Park showed that he can go well fresh when all is well, but the way he races does leave a few hearts in mouths as he has to be switched off at the back, and make late headway in the later stages of the race.

He has contested in the last four running's of the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury, holding the form figures of 2321, and making the first three in a race for four consecutive years is impressive and could very well set him in good stead here come Friday.

Unfortunately his usual rider Aidan Coleman has suffered a minor setback with his long-term injury, so this will be a plum ride for Tom Bellamy, who has been riding Emma's horses so well recently, and deserves the chance on this horse.

Tom stated he has ridden him plenty at home but will need his wits about him, as the horse can very much do things his own way in races.

A National Hunt legend, he would be a very popular winner on Friday, however he and his jockey will very much need to be on their A-game.

Dashel Drasher

  • Jockey: Rex Dingle
  • Trainer: Jeremy Scott

The highest-rated horse in the field, Dashel Drasher has been the flag bearer for the Jeremy Scott yard for a little while now, running well in all of his runs over both hurdles and fences, he is the perfect model of consistency that we all wish we could own.

He’s given his connections years of brilliant moments, winning or being placed in 22 of his 28 races, which is a very good strike rate to have in terms of prize money.

He was as good as ever when switched back to hurdling last season, putting in career-best efforts when beating all but Sire Du Berlais in the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, albeit demoted to 3rd after a stewards’ inquiry on the day, but subsequently reinstated on appeal.

Dashel Drasher had also finished runner-up in the Relkeel Hurdle and Cleeve Hurdle en route to the Festival, not beaten by all that far in both contests at very decent prices.

One huge factor that will set him in very good stead here is race fitness, having had a run already this season just 27 days ago. He did shape fairly well enough on his return when third at Wetherby, although he was given a fairly easy time at the head of affairs, so should have put that to better use.

It was a shade disappointing to see him brushed aside in the closing stages by lower-rated horses, but it was still good enough to open the pipes.

If that outing has got him fit and 100% for this, and he is back in any kind of form he showed in March, then he will take some pegging back if once again given an easy time of things at the front end.

Flight Deck

  • Jockey: Chris Ward
  • Trainer: Deborah Cole

Flight Deck is the first runner in the market that appears to have it all to do, on both his ratings and previous form, and this does look to be quite an ambitious roll of the dice by connections.

Had this been a handicap, then he would receive stacks of weight from the main three market rivals , but one factor in his favour is that he has race fitness, whereas the two main market runners do not.

He did finish a very good third in a competitive handicap hurdle at Cheltenham over 3 miles in October, when he was only beaten by five lengths, having been sent off at fairly large odds of 66/1 just days after changing yards for just £5,000.

It looked like he might have stolen the race after a pretty enterprising ride at Cheltenham last time, only to be collared very late on in the closing stages, probably not quite getting up the Cheltenham Hill.

When you put that into perspective, he is taking his new owners to Newbury to run in a Grade 2, which, depending on how he gets on in this race, could prove to be an excellent piece of business.

As mentioned he is some way off a few of these on ratings, but what a story it would be should he go well and claim a place here, basically paying back the fee connections paid for him already in just two runs for them.

Hugos New Horse

  • Jockey: Harry Cobden
  • Trainer: Paul Nicholls

It is somewhat of a rarity to see a Nicholls/Cobden horse this big in the market for a UK Graded race, but on previous form and ratings he probably does deserve to be this far down in the market, plus Paul Nicholls doesn't really have many staying hurdlers to go to war with as yet this season.

And their runner Hugos New Horse does carry the same colours as Big Buck’s, a brilliant four-time winner of this race for Paul Nicholls and the Stewart family a few years back.

Their runner here does seem unlikely to scale such heights of one of the greatest staying hurdlers the National Hunt sphere has seen in Big Buck's, but he did win five of his seven races over hurdles as a novice last term.

It was noticeable last time out that he did look to be a tad short of peak fitness when disappointing on his return in a 3-mile handicap hurdle at Cheltenham, finishing 15th place of 20 runners, beaten by 67 lengths in the end.

Connections risk blowing his rating of 132 here, which could be utilised in a handicap maybe, although one major thing to note is that stablemate Blueking D'Oroux produced an excellent performance to win a Grade 2 at Ascot over the weekend, and his rating did look to be a little low to land a race of that nature.

Hugos New Horse does scream a chaser all over, so I doubt that’s of much concern to them as they will look to build for the staying chases further on in the horse’s career.

Mahon’s Glory

  • Jockey: Sam Twiston-Davies
  • Trainer: Patrick Neville

By far the outsider of the field, and someway off all of these in terms of ratings at just 126, we needn’t spend much time speaking about Mahons Glory, as he will need an almighty effort on seasonal debut to land a Grade 2 of this nature, which truth has Grade 1 horses running in it.

He has only won one of his 16 races so far in his career, which was an Aintree Maiden over two and a half miles, and he was priced at 14/1. He therefore has a huge mountain to climb here on ratings and I'm not so sure he will stay this far as yet in his career.

However, his connections are guaranteed a minimum of £800 provided he completes the race on what will be his first run for his new trainer Patrick Neville, who can scale great heights here as shown with The Real Whacker last season.

This horse was once trained by Dr Richard Newland, so the change the scenery could improve this horse, but probably not enough to win this on Friday.

Marie's Rock

  • Jockey: Nico de Boinville
  • Trainer: Nicky Henderson

The young pretender to the field, eight-year-old Marie’s Rock has limited experience over this 3-mile staying trip, and only had her first attempt at this distance on her final start of last season, where she came 2nd in an excellent Grade 1 Liverpool Hurdle.

That was a very good effort, and it really shows she could be a force in staying hurdle races this term, and given she is one of the only mares in the division, she will get a little chunk of weight off all the boys when running against them.

She’s a very smart mare on her day who has won seven of her 14 efforts over hurdles, and a gallop at Newbury last week will have helped put her spot-on for this assignment.

She probably ran to her very best in the spring of 2022, when winning the Grade 1 Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham as an 18/1 shot, before following up at Punchestown in another Grade 1 contest.

She resumed winning ways last season with a smooth six-length win over Dashel Drasher in the Grade 2 Relkeel Hurdle, jumping and travelling nicely before surging clear up the Cheltenham Hill.

The Stayers’ Hurdle did look to be a real possibility after that smooth success, but Nicky Henderson ended up letting her defend her Mares’ Hurdle crown. The ground did turn soft leading up to that race, and she had to take on a retiring Honeysuckle, so in hindsight the writing was on the wall.

Marie's Rock did surrender her crown when coming a well-beaten seventh and fading quite tamely late on, with her rivals probably having a little too much pace for her on the day.

As previously mentioned, she did get a chance to show what she could do over three miles on her final start of the season at Aintree, bouncing back to form to beat all apart from the rejuvenated Sire Du Berlais, and she is by far the least exposed and most likely to improve nicely over this staying trip.

Final Verdict:

Paisley Park's record in this race speaks for itself, never coming out of the top three in the last four renewals of the contest, even winning it on one stage and unlucky in defeat last year.

However, he has to give weight away here to some young, unexposed legs in Marie's Rock, and the fact that Nicky H chucked her into the deep end when attempting the Grade 1 Liverpool Hurdle last season, speaks volumes for his belief in her as a nice stayer for the season ahead.

She goes well fresh, as shown in the Relkeel Hurdle last time, and if she can re-produce that Aintree effort, she will be hard to beat here, especially receiving 7lbs off Paisley Park and a pound off Dashel Drasher.

The racecourse gallop a week or so ago will have freshened her up nicely for this, something her trainer does a lot with his top horses, and the results show it does work.

This is a cracking race, one for us all to look forward to come Friday. The staying division needs a little spark, and hopefully Marie's Rock can provide that.

Race preview provided by @ Jake Russell

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