Dan Skelton hopes Maire Banrigh can book her ticket to the Cheltenham Festival as she takes a step up in class and trip in Friday’s Pertemps Lady Protectress Mares’ Chase at Huntingdon.
The eight-year-old will race over an extended two miles and three furlongs as she tries to maintain her unbeaten record over fences by claiming the biggest win of her career in the Listed prize.
Should Maire Banrigh continue her progression and make it four out of four over fences, an outing in the Arkle at the Festival could be on the cards.
Skelton said: “She has been in good form since her last run and hopefully this will be her last run before the Arkle.
“This race is a big deal itself though, as it is worth a lot of money. We are delighted with how she has been going over fences and hopefully she will keep going.
“We always had this race in mind after Doncaster and the step up in trip should be fine for her.
“I always thought she would be good over fences as she is a big, strong mare, but she has proved to be very good.”
Matt Sheppard expects The Bay Birch to make her presence felt stepped back up in trip having run over two miles last time.
He said: “We wanted to go for a fairly weak Listed race at Leicester, but unfortunately that was off and this looks quite a hot race.
“She is in excellent form though. If my mare was trained by someone with a bigger name, she would probably be nearly favourite.
“When she ran over three miles at Market Rasen, the ground was terrible and she didn’t get the trip.
“She wasn’t totally disgraced at Newbury and she was only beaten around 15 lengths at Cheltenham by a horse she was giving more than a stone to.”
Queen’s Magic was still in the mix when coming to grief during her most recent outing at Doncaster and trainer Neil Mulholland believes the eight-year-old can gain compensation with a clear round.
He said: “Queen’s Magic was unlucky when unseating at Doncaster as she was running really well. We have schooled her since and hopefully she will put in a good effort.
“The way she was going, I’d hoped she would have been placed, but we will never know, although she was going forward not backward.
“She has won over course and distance before which is a plus and it would nice to get a Listed place to her name.”
The field is completed by the Nicky Henderson-trained Casablanca Mix and Dalila Du Seuil from the yard of Harry Fry.