Paisley Park is the star name among 18 confirmations for the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Following the defection of market rival Thyme Hill on Friday morning, Emma Lavelle’s stable star will be a hot favourite to regain his crown in Thursday’s Grade One showpiece, having suffered a heart problem when bidding for back-to-back victories 12 months ago.
The nine-year-old has bounced back to form this season – filling the runner-up spot behind Thyme Hill in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury in November, before reversing the form in a thrilling renewal of the Long Walk at Ascot the following month.
Dan Skelton has confirmed Roksana off the back of the news Thyme Hill will miss out due to injury, but is still favouring an outing in Tuesday’s Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle – a race she won in 2019.
Skelton said: “I wasn’t going to confirm her for the Stayers’, but when I saw the news (about Thyme Hill) I did, because it just gives us a little bit more time to consider and look at forecasts etc.
“I don’t think Thyme Hill coming out is going to make any difference, but at the same time, I have confirmed her to give ourselves the option.
“We are still leaning towards the Mares’ Hurdle as things stand.”
Denise Foster – who has taken over the licence from the suspended Gordon Elliott – has a trio of interesting contenders, with dual Pertemps Final winner Sire Du Berlais joined by The Storyteller and Fury Road.
Other potential challengers from Ireland include Gavin Cromwell’s Flooring Porter and the Willie Mullins-trained Bacardys.
Last year’s shock Stayers’ Hurdle winner Lisnagar Oscar is in the mix again for Rebecca Curtis, while Kim Bailey looks set to saddle both Vinndication and Younevercall.
Beacon Edge, Diol Ker, If The Cap Fits, Lil Rockerfeller, Main Fact, Reserve Tank, Sam Spinner and Heaven Help Us are the other hopefuls.