Dual Grade One scorer Gala Marceau could make her belated return at Doncaster later this month, as connections have their sights set on the Mares’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
The five-year-old was a star performer for trainer Willie Mullins and owner Kenny Alexander last season, finishing no worse than third in five starts and tasting big-race success at both the Dublin Racing Festival and at Auteuil in the Prix Alain du Breil.
She was also a fine second to stablemate and regular foe Lossiemouth in the Triumph Hurdle before finishing a place further back in third behind that rival at the Punchestown Festival.
Having finished off her season excelling when upped to two and a half miles in France, connections believe the Mares’ Hurdle over a similar distance is the ideal target for the Cheltenham Festival in March.
And Gala Marceau could use a well-trodden path to Prestbury Park by running in Doncaster’s Yorkshire Rose Mares’ Hurdle on January 27, a race Mullins has won with both Annie Power (2014) and Vroum Vroum Mag (2017) previously.
“We will possibly see her out towards the end of the month and there is a nice race at Doncaster that is being discussed,” said Peter Molony, racing manager to owner Alexander. “It’s a nice mares’ race, a Grade Two I think it is.
“The main aim would be the Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham – that’s what we are thinking.
“The extra half a mile she will get at Cheltenham seemed to really play to her strengths at Auteuil and she was very impressive that day. We were all blown away to be honest.”
Alexander’s colours have of course been carried to Mares’ Hurdle success twice in the past by the great four-time Festival winner Honeysuckle.
Gala Marceau may struggle to match Honeysuckle’s exceptional career CV, but Molony feels she has more than done enough to advertise her quality during her first season with Mullins and has shown signs over the summer there could be plenty more to come.
He continued: “I’m not sure she will ever fill those boots, but she has done us proud so far and won us two Grade Ones.
“She’s not the biggest in the world, but she is as tough as nails and she has definitely grown with us over the summer and strengthened a bit by the time she went back to Willie’s. So we are very hopeful she can progress again.”