Marie’s Rock has Newbury option

Marie’s Rock could tread the same path as Champion Hurdle winning stablemate Epatante by making her return from injury in the Ladbrokes Gerry Feilden Intermediate Handicap Hurdle at Newbury.

Connections of the unbeaten Nicky Henderson-trained mare have earmarked the Listed contest on November 28 – which Epatante won 12 months ago on route to establishing herself as the best around – as a potential starting point.

After winning her first two starts over hurdles, including a Listed victory at Taunton,  the Middleham Park Racing-owned five year old was denied an outing in the at this year’s Festival after suffering a stress fracture.

Tom Palin, Middleham Park Racing’s National Hunt Manager, said: “Marie’s Rock should be ready to go in a couple of weeks and we might look at the Gerry Feilden with her which Epatante ran in last year.

“She was near on favourite for the Mares’ Novices Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival but she sustained a stress fracture and had to miss that. She has come back and is better than ever and Nicky is really excited about her.

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“Nicky has a bit of a hand in the Champion Hurdle and we will have to pick and choose where we go with her to avoid the big guns at Seven Barrows but we will try take the same route as Epatante for as long as we can, hopefully though to the Champion Hurdle.”

Though injury prevented Marie’s Rock from making an appearance at the Festival, Palin believes she would have gone close to giving the syndicate a first winner at the meeting since Junior landed the Kim Muir in 2011.

He added: “I wouldn’t have swapped our filly going into Cheltenham and think the world was supporting her going into that race before the injury. It would have been interesting to see how she would have got on.

“The winner was very impressive that day but Mr Henderson certainly thinks she would have gone very close or even won that race based on what he was seeing at home. She is very exciting.”

With a team of around 25 jumpers to go to war with this season Palin is particularly looking forward to seeing exciting juvenile Paros – who is a general 16-1 chance for the Triumph Hurdle – take to the track following his move from Gabriel Leenders to champion trainer Henderson.

He said: “Paros is really exciting Mr Henderson at home. He has raced once over in France and won very impressively and the form is working out well.

“It is a very exciting form line and it was the most expensive horse we have ever purchased so hopefully he will be good value.

“I’m not saying we will win the Triumph Hurdle but with a horse like him you assume you are working back from that date.”

Though plans remain fluid regarding a potential starting point Palin expects Paros to make his British debut this side of Christmas.

He added: “He has already got a penalty for winning at Dieppe which means we won’t see him in a regulation juvenile so it would probably in something quite nice.

“We were toying with the idea of going for the Wensleydale (at Wetherby) but that was two or three weeks too soon.

“There is a Grade Two juvenile at the November Meeting at Cheltenham but there are good races and sensible good races and we like to think we are quite sensible with our plans as it is a long season.”

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