Ascot aim for Thyme Hill after French defeat

Philip Hobbs’ Thyme Hill remains on course for the Howden Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot after his disappointing run in the Grand Prix d’Automne at Auteuil.

The seven-year-old is one of the leading lights in the staying hurdle division, winning the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury last term before coming home just a neck behind Paisley Park in the Grade One Long Walk on his next outing.

A setback ahead of the Cheltenham Festival ruled him out of the Stayers’ Hurdle there, but a top-level victory followed in Aintree’s Grade One three-miler, where he defeated Dan Skelton’s Roksana by a neck.

Paisley Park (right, spotted cap) just edged out Thyme Hill at Ascot last year
Paisley Park (right, spotted cap) just edged out Thyme Hill at Ascot last year (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

The gelding then returned to action in the Grade One Grand Prix d’Automne at Auteuil on November 7, the appeal of the race partly being the €150,000 prize on offer to the winner.

Thyme Hill did not seem to the take to the task in France, however, finding difficulty in the heavy going and eventually finishing fifth of seven runners when 41 and a quarter lengths behind the winner Galop Marin.

“The ground was probably the most likely reason he disappointed,” said Hobbs.

“There are a few different possibilities as to why, with the different hurdles and the travelling over there.

“He seems to cope well with the jumping and he travelled over there all right, so I don’t really think that was the problem.”

Despite a less than ideal start to his campaign, Thyme Hill will revert to the Grade One staying hurdles route, beginning at Ascot on December 18 and working towards Cheltenham and Aintree in the spring.

“He seems to have recovered from the race in France very well,” Hobbs said.

“We’re very much on course for the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot.”

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