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Unwavering support from owners vital as Middleham Park thrives

Tom Palin (centre): pleased with another winner for Middleham Park Racing
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In what has been an extremely testing year for almost everybody in racing, the thriving Middleham Park Racing team is bucking the trend as it prepares for its biggest jumps season yet.

The news of Cheveley Park Stud reducing its Flat ownership by 20 per cent was another troubling sign of the huge uncertainty which has surrounded the sport this year.

However, the UK's leading racehorse syndicate business has had a surge in membership and its National Hunt Manager Tom Palin has praised the unwavering support of owners as Middleham Park continues its investment in jump racing.

It has 24 horses in training for the winter and Palin believes the many restrictions faced by us all in our daily lives may have benefited them.

He explained: "We’ve had a lot of support from our passionate owners. People are sitting at home bored, nobody can really go anywhere.

"Even though you might not be able to go to the track, all of a sudden sitting round the TV with your family watching your horse and getting updates every week is quite appealing.

Marie's Rock: a general 40-1 chance for next year’s Champion Hurdle

"We’ve got 950 individual owners and we’ve maybe had only two who have raised any issues. They're very aware that if they step back, then they are putting the people's and the horses’ livelihoods at risk. We can’t thank our guys enough and their support has been unwavering during this crisis."

He continued: "It’s worrying to see people stepping back, but I feel we operate in a different world. Prize-money isn’t irrelevant but it isn’t the biggest factor in where and when we run; it’s about the enjoyment for people."

Middleham Park has horses with many of the leading trainers, including 13 at the yard of champion trainer Nicky Henderson.

Among them is Marie’s Rock, who was a leading contender for the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle won by the Willie Mullins’-trained Concertista, before suffering a stress fracture in February, ruling her out for the season.

The five-year-old is now ready to go again and is a general 40-1 chance for next year’s Unibet Champion Hurdle in which she could join a crowded field of Henderson challengers, including defending champion Epatante and dual winner Buveur D’Air.

"She’s hugely exciting and it was very disappointing that we missed out at Cheltenham, but the winner was very impressive," said Palin. 

"She will be ready to go in two or three weeks. I think we’ll start her in the Gerry Feilden Hurdle. It’s a tried and tested route and the one Epatante followed last year. 

Nicky Henderson: trains 13 horses for Middleham Park

"Her biggest ability is her speed, so we might have to join Mr Henderson’s Champion Hurdle contingent, where we might not even finish third in a Seven Barrows race!"

Also at Seven Barrows is French three-year-old hurdler Paros, who became Middleham Park’s most expensive purchase after an impressive win at Dieppe in May.

He is third in the market for next year’s JCB Triumph Hurdle and an excited Palin said: "Hopefully, he’ll live up to that reputation. The stuff he’s been showing Mr Henderson is very good.

"We’re looking to get him out relatively soon and aim him hopefully at the Triumph Hurdle, if not there is the Fred Winter. Either way, you should expect to see him at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

"We’re very excited for this season. We’ve been investing more in our National Hunt team over the last few years and we’re hoping this is the season we get our reward."

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I feel we operate in a different world. Prize-money isn’t irrelevant but it isn’t the biggest factor in where and when we run
E.W. Terms