Cheltenham Preview: 2019 winner Paisley Park is back in the picture for the Stayers’ Hurdle
Cheltenham Preview: Paisley Park back in the picture for Stayers’ Hurdle
Paisley Park looked set to dominate the stayers’ division when winning at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival. He has been defeated at the last two festivals but is now only 7-1 to recapture his crown after winning the Cleeve Hurdle for the third time. He lost many lengths at the start, leading some to speculate on whether he can be trusted to put his best foot forward next time. We reflect on his victory and look at his prospects of further Cheltenham glory.
Aidan Coleman well prepared for Paisley Park mind games
Much has already been said about Paisley Park missing the start in the Cleeve Hurdle. Ruby Walsh, regarded by many as the finest National Hunt of all time, admitted that he would have given up after allowing his rivals 10 lengths or more. Others have speculated whether Paisley Park will even consent to race in the Stayers’ Hurdle. Trainer Emma Lavelle and regular rider Aidan Coleman do not share those concerns, although both are well aware that the horse has a mind of his own.
A five-runner field was not ideal and, assuming the Stayers’ Hurdle is better subscribed, it will be easier for Coleman to make sure he starts in between rivals. It was only a momentary lapse and Coleman was alert enough to make up the horse’s mind for him. If he gets away on terms, the other issue with Paisley Park is a notorious “flat spot” he hits in his races, usually when travelling downhill before the home straight.
He did this again in the Cleeve Hurdle but, despite having given away ground at the start, he was still able to stay on up the hill better than any of his rivals. Champ has cantered into the lead at Ascot in the Long Walk Hurdle but was never travelling with quite the same zest at Cheltenham. Perhaps he had gone back a little from Ascot, although he too will appreciate a bigger field.
Klassical Dream defeat opens up Stayers’ Hurdle betting
Klassical Dream lost his place at the head of the market when surprisingly beaten into fourth at Gowran Park last week. The winner, Royal Kahala, was officially rated 26lbs inferior so there is no question Klassical Dream ran well below form. He had previously beaten reigning champion stayer Flooring Porter in the Christmas Hurdle and that horse is now 7-2 favourite.
Since Big Buck’s won his fourth and final Stayers’ Hurdle in 2012, there have been nine different winners. This very much goes against the previous trend for repeat winners in this division. Inglis Drever won it three times and Baracouda twice. Looking further back, Galmoy won it twice and Crimson Embers claimed a second victory at the age of eleven, four years after his first victory.
That all bodes well for the last three winners; Paisley Park, Lisnagar Oscar and Flooring Porter. It is too early to write off Klassical Dream and you can never rule out Willie Mullins. He struck in consecutive seasons with Nichols Canyon and Penhill in 2017-18 and still has seven entries in the race. These include the enigmatic Melon who has been runner-up in two Champion Hurdles as well as former Triumph Hurdle winner Burning Victory. Supporters of Paisley Park won’t be worrying about that and there will be worse each-way bets at Cheltenham than the 7-1 (non-runner – no bet) with William Hill.