Steal A March could be a Cheltenham Festival runner for the King

Steal A March, trained by Nicky Henderson, could be a Cheltenham Festival runner for the King after triumphing in a Pertemps qualifier at Wincanton on Boxing Day.

Steal A March ran out a three-quarter-length winner of the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle - providing His Majesty with a first National Hunt winner in the famous royal silks.

Steal A March also has the distinction of having struck gold for the late Queen on her Platinum Jubilee weekend back in June, when he secured a popular success at Worcester.

Henderson is now looking towards the Pertemps Final at the Festival in March, with the Seven Barrows handler hoping the Queen Consort will be in attendance at Prestbury Park in March.

He said: "It was (quite momentous having a first jumps winner for the King) and it gave us a lot of pleasure. Amazingly he wasn't quite the last of the Queen's winners but he won at Worcester on Derby Day which was Platinum Jubilee weekend.

"Everyone was trying to get a winner for the Queen that weekend but good old Steal A March jumped up, although he wasn't the most obvious one.

"I thought we ought to try to make sure we have a runner at the Festival and that was a Pertemps qualifier - I said whatever you do, get qualified. He got the job done really well and the plan would be to go straight there.

"I spoke to the Queen Consort on Tuesday morning. It was great and it is nice to get going. Hopefully she will be able to come to Cheltenham."

Marie's Rock and First Street, meanwhile, will give Henderson a strong hand in the careers@dornangroup.com Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham on New Year's Day.

The Seven Barrows handler has saddled three previous winners of the Grade Two contest, with Zaynar triumphing in 2009 and Oskar Whisky registering back-to-back victories in 2011 and 2012.

The likely favourite for this year's renewal is Marie's Rock, who won the Mares' Hurdle at last season's Cheltenham Festival before rounding off her campaign with further Grade One success at Punchestown.

The eight-year-old has not been seen in competitive action since the latter of those wins eight months ago, but is reported to be in rude health ahead of her reappearance.

"We've waited all season with her, but to be fair this is the only two-and-a half-mile race I can find for her as that is her trip. There just has been nowhere to go with her," said Henderson.

"She really has been in great form and has just come to herself. She has done plenty at home as she has been in training all the way through.

"She has to start somewhere and two and a half miles around Cheltenham is the ideal track and trip to get her going over."

Marie's Rock is set to be joined by stablemate First Street, who was runner-up to State Man in the County Hurdle at Cheltenham last spring and made a successful return in the Grade Three Gerry Feilden at Newbury in November.

Henderson added: "First Street could have run in the Christmas Hurdle but I don't think that would have been a good idea so we have decided to go back up in trip with him.

"We have tried him over similar trips before and he is a very good horse. It was a very good performance in the Gerry Feilden, so he is entitled to have a crack at this.

"Whether he will stay two-and-a-half I don't know. He might just be a two-miler at the end of the day, but if he gets the trip it will be great."

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