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Last Updated: 01/11/13 1:06pm
Une Artiste: Bidding for a repeat win
Trainer Nicky Henderson feels Une Artiste will improve for her seasonal debut in the OLBG.com Mares' Hurdle at Wetherby on Saturday.
The five-year-old mare won the Listed race 12 months ago and is back for another go at the West Yorkshire circuit. Tony McCoy's mount must, however, address a decline in her form in the spring when she struggled at the Cheltenham Festival and at Ayr.
Henderson told www.olbg.com: "She's fresh and well and in good shape, but she'll come on for the run. This is a great series and it was an obvious starting point for her."
L'Unique, by contrast, finished last season strongly by securing Grade One honours at Aintree in April.
Trainer Alan King said: "This race looks an ideal starting point, although it will be tough as she carries an 8lb penalty. However we hope for a very competitive run.
"She was very impressive when winning at Aintree, and it was definitely the right thing to do missing Cheltenham to wait for that.
"She thrived through the summer at her owner's stud and came back stronger, and, though she will stay further, this is the perfect race to start her back," the Barbury Castle handler told his website, www.alankingracing.co.uk.
The sparingly-campaigned Mischievous Milly is chasing a hat-trick, but has not been sighted since she won a Listed race at Taunton last December.
Trainer Oliver Sherwood said: "The OLBG Mares' Hurdle has been the target since she came back in off grass. She is as fit as I can get her at home, but she will certainly improve for the run and experience.
"Hopefully she will be good enough to contest the OLBG Mares' Hurdle in March at Cheltenham."
Last year's runner-up Alasi again goes to the well for the Paul Webber team, with Cheltenham Listed winner Doyly Carte, trained by Donald McCain, also in the hunt.
John Quinn's Cockney Sparrow won on her last two starts over hurdles in the spring and will have race fitness on her side after she struck on the Flat at Ayr in September.
Exclusive Dancer, Ixora and Prima Porta complete the nine-runner line-up.