Tag Archive for: Emma Lavelle

Eclair Surf on the crest of a wave in Classic Chase

Eclair Surf put in an admirable staying performance to run his rivals into the ground in the Agetur UK Ltd Classic Handicap Chase at Warwick.

The eight-year-old was given a bold, front-running ride by Tom Bellamy, as trainer Emma Lavelle claimed a second success in this stamina test over three miles and five furlongs after Shotgun Paddy in 2014.

Eclair Surf (11-1) jumped well, making only one mistake at the 22 fences, and never looked like stopping.

Chirico Vallis kept him company, but Eclair Surf pulled away before the home turn to score by 13 lengths.

Gericault Roque, the 7-2 favourite, could not got close enough to challenge and was nearly caught for second place by a rallying Chirico Vallis (33-1). Corach Rambler, the top-weight, went past beaten horses to claim fourth spot.

Lavelle said: “He was meant to go to Cheltenham on New Year’s Day and I was absolutely gutted when he came in from the field lame and couldn’t go.

“Luckily we didn’t have to wait too long for this race. We know he can gallop, but jumping has always been an issue.

“In truth he’s a good jumper but is always capable of belting one. It keeps Tom on his toes, that’s for sure.

“With that in mind I don’t think he’s a National horse, certainly not this year, but he might be one for the Scottish National. He needs a bit of cut and that race is earlier this year.

“We won this with Shotgun Paddy and that was our first really big handicap win and Barry (Fenton, partner) got quite emotional. He’s done a lot of work with this lad, too, so it will mean a lot.

“He’s a tricky horse so it’s a big ‘thank you’ to Barry really. His ability has never been in doubt, he just has his thing of throwing in a shocker. I knew Tom wanted to be handy today and that was a good idea.”

It is the first feature race Lavelle and Bellamy have won since teaming up, and the trainer was full of praise for her jockey.

“Tom is a massive team player which is great for us and when he’s riding, yes he’s thinking about the day, but he’s also thinking about the next day and the next day,” said Lavelle.

“It’s working really well and going the right way.”

For Bellamy it was a noteworthy success.

Eclair Surf put in some great leaps on the way round
Eclair Surf put in some great leaps on the way round (Simon Marper/PA)

“This means a lot, it’s certainly the biggest win we’ve had together, a £100,000 handicap,” he said.

“I wanted to be positive and see where we ended up. At one point he nearly ran away with me, which wasn’t ideal over this trip, but he does stay well.

“I’m sure he just likes to throw a dodgy leap in to keep me on my toes, but apart from one today he jumped great. It was a pleasure.”

Lavelle content with revised mark for Wincanton winner Killer Clown

It is not often a trainer is satisfied with revised handicap marks, but Emma Lavelle insists she is “happy” Killer Clown has been given a fighting chance after his wide-margin win at Wincanton on Saturday.

The eight-year-old gained the second chasing success of his career when landing a Class 2 handicap by nine and a half lengths under Tom Bellamy.

The Tim Syder-owned gelding is now up to a revised mark of 142, although any thoughts of a trip to the Cheltenham Festival are on the back burner for now.

Lavelle said: “Killer Clown went up 7lb which is fair enough and he seems to have come out of the race well, so that’s great.

“If he was very bright, we might look at Ascot (bet365 Handicap Chase on Saturday week), but at this stage I’m happy with where we are rating-wise and we will make some decisions in the next week.

“There is no point going to the well too often at this time of year.”

Although Killer Clown has taken time to blossom, the Ogbourne Maizey handler has always thought a lot of him and the key to his improved form has been the addition of a tongue tie.

Lavelle added: “He is a smasher, he really is. He has run well, but had not gone on as much as we had hoped and I think the tongue tie has made a big difference to him, because he definitely saw his race out well.

“He didn’t have to do too much on Saturday, but he did gallop out to the line and certainly on his work at home, it seems to have made difference to him.”

However, long-term targets may not include a trip to Prestbury Park.

“There are some nice two-and-a-half-mile handicaps in the spring, with some nice prizes to go with it. I don’t know that Cheltenham would be the right sort of place to go with him,” she added.

“As for Aintree, you are struggling on the Mildmay track for two-and-a-half-mile races with him and then you finish up looking at the Topham or something. I don’t know – we’ll see. There are options out there.”

Paisley Park will bid for a third Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham
Paisley Park will bid for a third Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham (Julian Herbert/PA)

Meanwhile, Lavelle is hoping the recent rain persists for former Stayers’ Hurdle winner Paisley Park, who is set to return to Cheltenham on Trials Day.

Having finished third in each of his three starts this season, Paisley Park is on course for an attempt to win the Grade Two Cleeve Hurdle for a third time, after victories in 2019 and 2020.

“Touch wood he is in great order and the Cleeve Hurdle is very much the plan,” confirmed Lavelle.

“He is on target for that and we are looking forward to it. Hopefully for him, anyway, the rain keeps coming, as that is what he needs – that proper test.”

Any plans to belatedly send the Andrew Gemmell-owned 10-year-old over fences were scuppered by a dry autumn and if all goes well, the Stayers’ Hurdle, which he won in 2019, is still the primary goal.

“I can’t say I’m that disappointed we are still over hurdles,” she added.

“I think that it was an option to go over fences and his run in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot was a good one on ground that really didn’t suit, and I’m really looking forward to seeing him run on proper soft ground and see where we are with him.”

Red Rookie opens chase account with Hereford verdict

Red Rookie benefited from a patient ride by Tom Bellamy to take the honours in the Follow @AtTheRaces On Twitter Novices’ Chase at Hereford.

The Emma Lavelle-trained seven-year-old picked up the trail-blazing pair of Galice Macalo and Calico before the final fence to run out a ready winner.

Red Rookie was last early on and clearly outpaced as the first two built a commanding lead. However, the leaders could not keep up their scorching gallop allowing the 11-8 favourite to claw back their advantage quite quickly.

Overtaking Calico on the home turn, Red Rookie motored away to score by three and a quarter lengths and make it third time lucky over fences. Galice Malaco rallied to take second spot from Calico by two and a half lengths.

Lavelle said: “It was a great confidence booster after his fall at Ascot. I don’t think Hereford is his ideal track. He wants a more galloping two miles and probably ideally softer ground than he experienced today.

“I think he’s a nice horse with a really bright future and it was lovely to see him jumping, after his crashing fall, as well as he did and great for Tom and the team for him to get back in the winner’s enclosure.

“He’s a really genuine horse and is still learning. We’ll give him a bit of time to get over this and have a good think about it. He does need soft ground, he does need a galloping track.

“One of the best things about today is the fact it was his third race over fences so we can now look at some of the bigger handicaps because he is a horse that in the main does jump well. There could be some nice two-mile handicaps out there for him.”

Legal Rights just gets the better of Alberic to take the Watch Off The Fence On attheraces.com Conditional Jockeys’ Novices’ Handicap Hurdle
Legal Rights just gets the better of Alberic to take the Watch Off The Fence On attheraces.com Conditional Jockeys’ Novices’ Handicap Hurdle (David Davies/PA)

Trainer Gary Moore enjoyed an across-the-card treble with Legal Rights and Hayedo scoring at Hereford and Capricorn Prince doing the business at Lingfield with his only three runners of the day.

Legal Rights (100-30 favourite) got the ball rolling with a hard-fought win in the Watch Off The Fence On attheraces.com Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle.

The five-year-old just defied a 7lb penalty for a recent Fontwell success by holding the sustained challenge of Alberic by half a length in the hands of Niall Houlihan. Long-time leader Merry Mistress was 19 lengths back in third place.

Moore said: “He just managed to scramble home which is handy and what fantastic prize money. Fair play to Hereford.”

Hayedo (9-2) opened his account over jumps at the third attempt when running his rivals into the ground in the Off The Fence On youtube.com/attheraces Juvenile Maiden Hurdle under Moore’s son, Jamie.

Hayedo scores for owner Harry Redknapp in the Off The Fence On youtube.com/attheraces Juvenile Maiden Hurdle
Hayedo scores for owner Harry Redknapp in the Off The Fence On youtube.com/attheraces Juvenile Maiden Hurdle (David Davies/PA)

Wearing the colours of football personality Harry Redknapp, Hayedo came home unchallenged by 13 lengths from Big Boy Bobby, whose mistake at the last snuffed out any slim chance he may have had of reducing the deficit.

“He’s quite a nice horse. Whether he beat much I don’t know and he probably had the run of the race as well, but he couldn’t have done it any better than he did.

“Whether we run him in the Chatteris Fen (at Huntingdon on January 14) or it might come a bit too soon or go for something else. I might run him in an all-aged novice to negate some of the penalty.”

Trainer Ben Case and jockey Harry Bannister also enjoyed a brace with Gazette Bourgeoise and Felton Bellevue.

The dramatic exit of the leader Mr Clarkson two out let in Gazette Bourgeoise (7-2 favourite) to win the Sky Sports Racing Sky 415 Handicap Hurdle by a length and a quarter from Art Of Diplomacy.

Felton Bellevue (9-2 favourite) asserted in the closing stages to land the Free Replays On attheraces.com Handicap Chase by four lengths from Ivilnoble.

All roads leading back to Stayers’ Hurdle for Paisley Park

Paisley Park is to bid to reclaim his Stayers’ Hurdle crown at Cheltenham following his encouraging effort at Ascot on Saturday.

Emma Lavelle feels her stable star showed he is back on the right track by sticking on well to finishing third behind Champ in the Long Walk Hurdle. But she would like to see the ground ease to bring his stamina more into play.

The Andover trainer will give the nine-year-old his prep run for the Festival in the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham on January 29, a race he won in 2019 before going on to Stayers’ Hurdle glory and again in 2020.

Lavelle said on Sunday: “He’s perfect. He’s come out of the race really well and all is very good.

“We were delighted with him. It was much more back in the right direction and he’s run a smashing race.

“What he really needs is some rain that just takes that ability to quicken out of the others and makes staying much more important. When the ground is soft you need to stay three miles properly to see it out, when it’s like this it’s a bit easier to get there.

“Clearly we always want to be winning, but it was a proper performance.”

She added: “I think on the back of yesterday and the fact, run by run, he seems to be heading in the right direction, the plan will be to go to the Cleeve and then the Stayers’.

“I had a good chat with Andrew (Gemmell, owner) this morning and he’s in agreement that’s the right route to take with him. We’ll stay over hurdles and see.”

Paisley Park set to aim for Long Walk Hurdle

Paisley Park may be kept over hurdles for the foreseeable future, according to owner Andrew Gemmell.

The then-seven-year-old gave trainer Emma Lavelle the biggest win of her career to date when landing the 2019 Stayers’ Hurdle.

And while Lavelle was considering the possibility of going chasing with the nine-year-old following Saturday’s Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury, where he finished 11 lengths third to Thomas Darby, connections are hopeful he may still have the ability to run over the smaller obstacles at the Cheltenham Festival.

Gemmell says Paisley Park is on course for the Howden Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot on December 18 and plans for a chasing debut are, for the time being, on hold.

He said: “Ascot is definitely in my thoughts, as he has won two of the last three Long Walk Hurdles and the only one he didn’t win was the one in 2019, where we pulled him out on the day because the ground was unsuitable.

“I think we have to go to Ascot and, in retrospect, we are not too disappointed with the run at Newbury.

“I know we made the pace, but the race didn’t fall the way we wanted it to.

“The ground was definitely quicker than we thought and I think he definitely needs softer ground than he got.

“The Long Walk may have a bigger field, there will be a truer pace and we have nothing to lose by going to Ascot now.

“We feel that he has run there twice, won there twice and so I think we have to go.”

Owner Andrew Gemmell celebrates Paisley Park's 2019 Stayers' Hurdle success
Owner Andrew Gemmell celebrates Paisley Park’s 2019 Stayers’ Hurdle success (Andrew Mathews/PA)

Though Paisley Park has won nine of his 18 starts over hurdles, he has not won since taking the Long Walk Hurdle last December and the owner feels that after victory at Ascot, things did not go according to plan.

While admitting plans remain fluid, despite Lavelle being keen to send Paisley Park chasing, Gemmell feels the lack of rain is somewhat forcing the Ogbourne Maizey handler’s hand.

He explained: “Certainly, with the idea about going chasing, with the ground the way it has been, being so firm, we haven’t had any opportunity to school, so that is on the back burner at the moment.

“If he runs relatively well, we will stay as we are. I think the Stayers’ Hurdle has to be the aim.

“Last year, I don’t think we were helped by the fact that the Cleeve Hurdle was cancelled and I think we were short of a run when we got to Cheltenham, and Aintree was totally unsuitable, as it came too soon after the Stayers’ and he was pulled up.

“In retrospect, we probably shouldn’t have gone to Aintree for the Liverpool Hurdle, but that’s the way it is.

“He seemed well in himself at the time and it was the only time he has really run like that. They are not machines after all.”

Paisley Park ‘sharper’ ahead of Long Distance date

Emma Lavelle expects Paisley Park to strip “fitter and sharper” in Friday’s Ladbrokes Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury.

The former champion staying hurdler is on something of a redemption mission as since losing his crown in March 2020, he has won only one of five subsequent races.

Second in this race 12 months ago to Thyme Hill on what was his seasonal bow, this year he heads to Newbury having run at Wetherby first, when third behind Paul Webber’s mare Indefatigable, beaten just over five lengths.

“At the time we were a little bit deflated, wondering why he was making everything so hard for himself,” said Lavelle.

Paisley Park had a spin around Newbury last week with a stablemate
Paisley Park had a spin around Newbury last week with a stablemate (Andrew Matthews/PA)

“On re-watching the race, it was probably a better performance than we thought at the time.

“My gut feeling is we probably need to be harder on him in training than we have been. He’s got older and wiser and I think he takes a bit more work.

“He’s done a lot since then, including going to Newbury for the gallops morning where he did a good bit of work. He should be stripping a bit fitter and sharper.”

Lavelle has decided to fit the nine-year-old with cheekpieces, with a career over fences still on hold for the time being.

“When we put a visor on him a few years ago he ran like the Hounds of the Baskervilles were chasing him in the Albert Bartlett. It was a disaster and clearly he raced with way too much vigour and didn’t last to the end,” said Lavelle.

“We are not putting them on because he is ungenuine or saving something for himself, therefore it’s not about having a visor to block out everything, it’s about doing something to make him concentrate a bit more and stop him worrying about galloping alongside other horses and to think more about travelling and what’s going on in the race.”

Indefatigable meets Paisley Park on 6lb worse terms this time, but Webber is keen to let her have another crack at the boys.

“We were very pleased with her at Wetherby. She didn’t go up in the handicap and the handicapper didn’t necessarily rate the race too highly, but we don’t mind that,” he said.

Indefatigable was impressive at Wetherby
Indefatigable was impressive at Wetherby (Tim Goode/PA)

“It does look a strong race and we are 6lb worse off than we were, so she is obviously going to have to improve again, but she deserves her shot.”

Another mare in the field is Paul Nolan’s Cheltenham Festival winner Mrs Milner, who landed the Pertemps Final back in March.

Since then she has won a Listed mares’ hurdle at Limerick.

“There’s times when you’ve just got to give it a go,” said Nolan.

“She’s only six. She has to improve that stone or whatever she has to improve and hopefully she can.

“There’ll be no excuses jumping-wise or anything like that. Let’s see what level she can get to.”

Olly Murphy admits to being disappointed with Thomas Darby when he was fourth behind Indefatigable at Wetherby but he expects a better display now his horses are in much ruder health.

“He’s in good form. To be honest I was a little disappointed with his first run of the season at Wetherby. Sean Bowen didn’t think he handled the tacky ground that day,” said Murphy.

“I’ve fitted him with a tongue tie and hopefully that might help him finish his race off a bit better.

“If I hadn’t taken him to Wetherby I’d fancy him pretty strongly off his Aintree run (third to Thyme Hill) but this is a bit of a fact finding mission, he’s got to go and do it now.

“A flat track, three miles, decent ground – he ticks plenty of boxes but he’s got to go and do it now.

“On a going day he’ll go very close. He’s better off with the mare who won at Wetherby, my horses are flying now, so fingers crossed.”

Rebecca Curtis’ Lisnagar Oscar, a 50-1 winner of the Stayers’ Hurdle in 2020, and Nicky Henderson’s On The Blind Side complete the field.

Curtis is hoping Lisnagar Oscar can now return to his best following a pleasing comeback at Aintree.

Lisnagar Oscar won the Stayers' Hurdle in 2020
Lisnagar Oscar won the Stayers’ Hurdle in 2020 (Tim Goode/PA)

“I was really pleased at Aintree because he always needs his first run and it was over two and a half miles,” said Curtis.

“I liked the way he stayed on and he seems in great form. Obviously this year he doesn’t have a Grade One penalty which will help. He should have a great chance I hope.

“He was a bit outpaced at Aintree, just like I thought he might be. I’m surprised he’s as big a price as he is to be honest.

“Going off the year before last, he has the best form in the race but nothing much went right last year. He got struck into in this race last year and it all went wrong but he’s fresh and well now.”

Lavelle hoping cheekpieces can work the oracle for Paisley Park

Paisley Park will wear cheekpieces for the first time in the Ladbrokes Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury on Friday.

Trainer Emma Lavelle hopes the headgear will help sharpen up the nine-year-old in a race which will help determine whether the nine-year-old continues over smaller obstacles or goes novice chasing.

Paisley Park, the Stayers’ Hurdle hero at the Cheltenham Festival in 2019, took this prize later that year and was second to Thyme Hill 12 months ago.

“This is an important race for Paisley Park to decide what the next step is,” said Lavelle.

“He doesn’t in any way suggest at home that he is any different to how he’s been in other years, but he has to go and do it at Newbury.

“The entries are pretty much what we’ve just run against and if he doesn’t step up on his first run, then we know we are not where we were and we will have to make a decision on what we are doing. Do we let him have a try over fences or stay over hurdles?”

Paisley Park’s past experience in headgear did not produce the desired outcome but cheekpieces have been chosen to make him more focussed and help him travel better for jockey Aidan Coleman.

“We are not putting them on because he is ungenuine or saving something for himself, therefore it’s not about having a visor to block out everything, it’s about doing something to make him concentrate a bit more and stop him worrying about galloping alongside other horses and to think more about travelling and what’s going on in the race,” said Lavelle.

Paisley Park faces five rivals, including Indefatigable. Paul Webber’s mare had him back in third when winning the bet365 Hurdle at Wetherby four weeks ago. The Olly Murphy-trained Thomas Darby, who was fourth that day, is also in the mix.

Lisnagar Oscar, the 2020 Stayers’ Hurdle victor, takes his chance for trainer Rebecca Curtis with Nicky Henderson saddling On The Blind Side. Irish raider, the Paul Nolan-trained Mrs Milner, completes the sextet.

A small, but select, field of four has been declared for the Ladbrokes Committed To Safer Gambling Novices’ Chase.

Tom Lacey’s Tea Clipper has to give weight all-round after winning a Listed contest at Chepstow on his fencing debut last month. Paul Nicholls is represented by Pic d’Orhy, who made all in a four-horse affair at Ffos Las.

The Gary Moore-trained Nassalam, narrow winner of a novice handicap chase at Ascot, and Alex Hales’ Millers Bank, comfortable winner on his chasing debut at Huntingdon, completes the quartet.

Paisley Park primed for Long Distance mission

Paisley Park warmed up for the Long Distance Hurdle with a pleasing workout at the Ladbrokes Winter Festival gallops morning at Newbury.

Partnered by Lavelle’s husband and assistant, former jockey Barry Fenton, Paisley Park was accompanied in the exercise by stablemate Flemcara.

The 2019 Stayers’ Hurdle hero took the Long Distance Hurdle, sponsored by Ladbrokes, that November and was second to Thyme Hill 12 months ago.

A decision on whether the nine-year-old stays hurdling or goes novice chasing is likely to be made after that race.

Lavelle said: “I’m really happy with him. It’s lovely to get him here and on a bit of ground to get his blood up.

“He knows exactly what he has to do on the gallops at home and he’s a big, strong horse and takes that work, but coming onto a racecourse is different.

“The plan is to put cheekpieces on him (in the Long Distance Hurdle), but I want to leave the surprise element for the day he actually races. We need to be sure they will help him and that he doesn’t sit back in them.

“The race here is at a course where he knows his way round. I would love to see him stamp his authority in the stayers’ division one last time.

“There are lots of pretenders, but some horses just keep coming back and I hope he’s one that does the same.”

Next stop Newbury and cheekpieces for Paisley Park

A decision on whether Paisley Park could pursue a career over fences will be delayed until after he is fitted with cheekpieces in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury later this month.

A novice chasing campaign was mooted for the 2019 Stayers’ Hurdle hero earlier in the year, but connections elected to stick to the smaller obstacles for his return to action at Wetherby’s Charlie Hall meeting.

Paisley Park was under pressure a long way from home, but stuck on to pick up minor honours in third, leaving Lavelle keen to have another crack at a race her stable star won two years ago.

“He’s come out of the weekend really well. He’s just back cantering and doing everything as you’d expect,” said the trainer.

“He’s probably tightened up a bit for it, which is always a good thing.

“We’re going to put some cheekpieces on him, just to try to make it a bit easier for himself – he makes it tiring to watch!

“Physically he’s come out it really well, so we’ll see if the cheekpieces help at Newbury and we can make a decision on where we go after that.”

Testing ground may scupper Lavelle’s Sefton plan

Ground conditions will dictate whether Manofthemountain will tackle Aintree’s Grand National fences in the Betway Grand Sefton Handicap Chase on Saturday.

Winner of the Grade Two Silver Trophy at Cheltenham in the spring, the eight-year-old blew away any cobwebs when filling the runner-up spot on his seasonal reappearance at Chepstow last month.

Trainer Emma Lavelle believes that effort will have left Manofthemountain cherry-ripe for a big-race assignment, but warns he will only head for Merseyside if the ground is suitable.

She said: “The ground needs to dry back a bit for him to be going for that.

“It’s always been the plan and then it rained a lot, just in random places as well – there are plenty of tracks that are still riding quick.

“He was in good order at Chepstow, but he was a bit fresh and was always going to come on for it, which he’s done.

“If the ground is all right Aintree is the plan and if not we’ll probably go for the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham (on Saturday week) instead.”

TauntIrish Prophecy winning at Tauntonon Races – November 12th
Irish Prophecy winning at Taunton (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Lavelle is also targeting a major weekend prize at Wincanton, with dual course winner Irish Prophecy firmly on course for the 60th Badger Beer Handicap Chase.

“The ground there looks perfect for us,” the trainer added.

“It’s going to be a more competitive race than the one he won last time, but he jumped well and travelled well and did it all right that day.

“If he can do it in the same way on Saturday it would be great.”

Paisley Park ready for Wetherby return

Emma Lavelle reports Paisley Park ready to make his seasonal debut in the bet365 Hurdle at Wetherby.

How the nine-year-old performs in Saturday’s Grade Two is set to determine which course the Wiltshire handler takes with him this season.

Paisley Park has been in training longer than usual before his first start of the campaign, and Lavelle is just hoping the ground will be suitable for her former Stayers Hurdle hero.

“I couldn’t be happier with our preparation,” she said.

“We got him in earlier, and hence he’s ready to run earlier. I’d love to run him.

“Hopefully this will direct us for the season.

“It is very much the plan to run – but if we don’t think the ground is soft enough, then I won’t run him. I won’t take a chance.

“I’m absolutely delighted with him, and he’s ready to go.”

Thomas Darby represents Olly Murphy
Thomas Darby represents Olly Murphy (Mike Egerton/PA)

Olly Murphy is excited to be giving Thomas Darby just his second run over three miles.

The eight-year-old was a fine third behind Thyme Hill on his first start at the trip, in the Grade One Liverpool Hurdle at Aintree in April.

“He’s in good nick and he’s ready to start the season off,” said Murphy.

“Obviously it’s only his second run at three miles, so he’s very unexposed over the trip. It looks a lovely starting point.

“Paisley Park is going to be hard to beat. It’s a competitive renewal, but I’m looking forward to him running.”

Proschema runs for Dan Skelton
Proschema runs for Dan Skelton (Nigel French/PA)

Dan Skelton believes the step up to three miles will suit Proschema – who is also going up in class.

“He’s got it to do on ratings,” said the Alcester trainer.

“I’m looking forward to going three miles with him. I think he’ll like the track – I think he’ll outrun his handicap mark.

“It’s a very strong race. But I’ve always wanted to go three miles with him, and this will give us a good idea.”

The sole Irish raider is Charles Byrnes’ Run For Oscar, who tries his hand in Pattern company following an emphatic success in a handicap hurdle at Listowel last month.

“Run For Oscar has gone up considerably in the handicap at home, and we just thought this would be a good opportunity to dip our toe into graded company,” said County Limerick-based Byrnes.

“I think as long as the ground stays on the better side, three miles should be about right for him because he seems to stay well enough.

“On ratings, he is not far off most of them – aside from the top one or two. I am not saying he will be good enough to win or anything, but I think he could run a big race.”

Master Tommytucker is back over hurdles at Wetherby
Master Tommytucker is back over hurdles at Wetherby (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Paul Nicholls is running Grade Two-winning chaser Master Tommytucker over the smaller obstacles for the first time since April 2018.

“I’ve been wanting for a while to try him at three miles, and this looks an ideal opportunity over hurdles because it is hard enough to find races for him over fences off his current mark of 160,” Nicholls told Betfair.

“He has to start somewhere, and it obviously helps that he isn’t lumbered with any penalties. The return to hurdles will not do him any harm, and I have a feeling he is crying out for this step up in trip. I did the same a few years ago with Tidal Bay, and he won it. I expect Tommy to be competitive.”

Nicholls is hoping the rain falls to aid Miranda’s cause in the bet365 Mares’ Hurdle.

“I wouldn’t mind seeing plenty of rain for Miranda, who has been a big success story for the Owners Group,” he said.

“She has won five times for them, is very fit, having done plenty of work ahead of this race – and looks to have a nice chance.”

Molly Ollys Wishes takes on Miranda
Molly Ollys Wishes takes on Miranda (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Molly Ollys Wishes comes down in trip, but Skelton senses it is the right place to begin her campaign.

“Two miles is very short for her, but I feel it’s a good start to the season,” said Skelton.

“I feel we can build on this run – but Wetherby is a big, galloping track, so she isn’t going to be out-speeded all the way. There are going to be speedier horses – but she’s a hardy, tough mare and will give her running, that’s for sure.”

The Nicky Henderson-trained Marie’s Rock and Alan King’s Her Indoors are among others in a competitive field.

De Rasher Counter pencilled in for National service

Emma Lavelle will aim De Rasher Counter at next year’s Randox Grand National as the top staying chaser returns to training this season.

De Rasher Counter has been off the track with a tendon injury since a solitary run over hurdles at the start of the previous campaign.

The nine-year-old was a tenacious winner of the hugely competitive Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury in 2019 but was then a well-beaten fourth and pulled up in two subsequent runs that winter – in Grade Two company at Cheltenham and under top weight in the Midlands Grand National.

Lavelle is delighted to have him back at her Wiltshire yard, but will be patient before choosing an initial target en route to Aintree.

“He came back in yesterday, and it is hugely exciting having him back in,” she said.

“He has been in Wales trotting up hills, hardening his legs off, having picked up an injury last season.

“The plan for this season will be geared around the Grand National. We will scan his legs and if everything is all right, we will be able to start cantering with him.

“He will have a decent level of fitness from what he has been doing. If the ground is not bottomless, hopefully we can start him in January and have a couple of runs before the National.”

Lavelle is mindful that, although De Rasher Counter is a three-times winner in heavy ground, it may be best to steer clear of especially testing conditions.

She added: “I think we will keep all options open, and I’m not saying we won’t run him over hurdles, but I think it will depend where the races are, what the ground is like and what makes sense.

“Everything will work back from the Grand National, though.

“The ground in the Cotswold Chase was bottomless, and he is a lovely-moving horse and he probably doesn’t want it like that. We had to have a crack at it, to see what the right route was.

“The Ladbrokes Trophy is a competitive handicap, and they put a lot into running in races like that. He was a progressive novice the season before that, and the Ladbrokes probably took more out of him than we gave him credit for.”

Cyrname tops Charlie Hall contenders

Last year’s winner Cyrname heads eight entries for the Bet365 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.

The Paul Nicholls-trained nine-year-old is, however, on something of a retrieval mission on Saturday.

Having looked right back to his best in Yorkshire last October, Cyrname failed to complete in two subsequent outings – at Kempton in the King George and at Ascot.

Dan Skelton has started the season in good form with notable wins for Third Time Lucki and Allmankind over the weekend, and he has been aiming second-season chaser Shan Blue at this race for some time.

A talented novice, he won the Kauto Star at Kempton on Boxing Day and was second in two other Grade Ones.

Skelton said: “Shan Blue is in great order, and the Charlie Hall Chase has been on his radar since the beginning of the season.

“He also has an entry in the handicap at Ascot, but the full intention is to run at Wetherby provided the ground is OK, because he has a good record around there.

“Cyrname has obviously achieved far more than we have in the past – but that was the past, and this is the present. Young horses have to take on the older horses at some point.

“It won’t be easy, of course it won’t. But that is where we are with this horse, and I am delighted he is able to take part in races like this.”

Clondaw Castle won a big prize at Kempton last season
Clondaw Castle won a big prize at Kempton last season (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Tom George’s Clondaw Castle brings solid handicap form to the table, and was also second at the top level to Clan Des Obeaux at Aintree in April – albeit beaten 26 lengths.

Scottish National winner Mighty Thunder, Nicky Henderson’s Fusil Raffles, Phil Kirby’s Top Ville Ben, the Christian Williams-trained Kitty’s Light and Henry Daly’s mare Chilli Filli complete the list.

The bet365 Hurdle, better known as the West Yorkshire Hurdle, has attracted 12 entries – including Paisley Park.

Paisley Park could turn up at Wetherby on Saturday
Paisley Park could turn up at Wetherby on Saturday (Julian Herbert/PA)

Last season was up and down for Emma Lavelle’s stable star, winning the Long Walk but ending the season pulled up behind Thyme Hill at Aintree.

“Paisley Park is good, and the idea is to start off at Wetherby provided the ground is on the slow side,” said Lavelle.

“He has been in brilliant form since he has come back in. He seems really well in himself and has done everything we have asked of him.

“He came in a little earlier this season with a view to getting him out earlier, and he is definitely ready to run this weekend as long as the ground is suitable.

“There is rain forecast later in the week, so fingers crossed it arrives.”

Another previous Stayers’ Hurdle winner, Lisnagar Oscar, has been given the option by Rebecca Curtis.

Nicholls has entered Master Tommytucker, better known as a chaser but unbeaten in two outings over hurdles, while Skelton could run Proschema and Molly Ollys Wishes – who also has an entry in the bet365 Mares’ Hurdle.

There is also an Irish entry in the shape of the Charles Brynes-trained Run For Oscar.

While rain is forecast towards the end of the week at Wetherby, it would be most welcome.

Clerk of the course Jonjo Sanderson said: “We’re due heavy rain Thursday and into Friday morning, but once that has passed through it looks dry.

“They are saying there could be up to 15-20 millimetres in that band, which would be most welcome.

“We’re finishing off a second cycle of irrigation today, so it will have had nigh on an inch of water since Thursday-Friday.

“Tomorrow we’ll take a look and see what that rain looks like – if it’s disappeared or halved or whatever – and we’ll decide whether to water again.

“We’ve pretty much got the full range of good ground, good to soft down the back and and bit quicker up the home straight – but it’s been like that since the (configuration) change many years ago.”

The anticipated return of Cyrname will be an obvious highlight at the weekend.

Sanderson added: “It’s nice to see Cyrname back again for the Charlie Hall.

“The (entry) numbers are about what we’d expect, but the hurdle race numerically looks stronger than usual – which is great to see.

“With two previous Stayers’ Hurdle winners in there, hopefully at least one of them will run.”

Emma Lavelle appoints Tom Bellamy as stable jockey

Emma Lavelle is looking ahead to a bright future after appointing Tom Bellamy as her stable jockey.

The Marlborough trainer felt the time was right to have a retained rider for the first time in several years.

Having Bellamy on her side means Lavelle will have the consistency she requires after the jockey made the right impression when being successful on a spare ride.

“It’s something we’re excited about,” she said.

“It was just one of those things, he picked up a spare ride for us at Huntingdon and won on it and then won on it again. Then it just so happened Adam (Wedge) had just got injured and he started to ride a few more and it just went from there.

Tom Bellamy
Tom Bellamy (David Davies/PA)

“His style of riding suits us. He is definitely going in the right direction. He is great to work with and everyone is really pleased about it going forward.

“He comes in and rides out. We’ve got some great lads who have been riding for us, but I just wanted a bit of consistency and have someone who was able to get to know the horses well. We have some lovely horses going forward and we wanted the right person and the consistency going on top of them. It’s working well.”

The one horse in the yard Bellamy will not be riding is Paisley Park. Aidan Coleman will continue to ride the Paisley Park, who has been a stable star for the last few years.

“He (Coleman) has had a great relationship with him and so that is his only ride. Hopefully the next Paisley Park is lurking somewhere in the yard,” said Lavelle.

Lavelle has high hopes for Irish Prophecy gold run

Emma Lavelle reports Irish Prophecy to be in tip-top condition ahead of the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown on Saturday.

The Wiltshire trainer has had the long-distance handicap chase on the final day of the season in mind for several months.

Irish Prophecy was given a break after winning at Taunton in November and had a warm-up outing over hurdles in Ascot last month to step up for his assignment.

“This has been very much the plan for him since he won at Taunton,” said Lavelle.

Emma Lavelle has aimed Irish Prophecy at the bet365 Gold Cup for some time
Emma Lavelle has aimed Irish Prophecy at the bet365 Gold Cup for some time (John Walton/PA)

“He went to Ascot for a prep run over hurdles which was lovely and he ran a super race. It was just to get a run under his belt.

“He’s in great order. I think he will love the ground. The trip is an unknown, but I suppose it is for a lot of them. I’d like to think he’d run a big race.

“He doesn’t want the ground too soft, so he’s had a lovely mid-season break. His prep run at Ascot has hopefully set him up for this.”

Caroline Bailey does not think the expected quick ground will be a handicap to Crosspark, though his welter weight could be.

“He’s got top-weight so it’s going to be tough,” said the Northamptonshire trainer.

“He has run quite well on top of the ground, but he was lower in the handicap. Whether he’ll be quick enough, I don’t know, but he’s in good form and he’ll do his best.

“He’s consistent, the trip will be fine. He doesn’t have to have soft ground. It’s just the way the winter’s been. He was second in a Scottish National when I nearly pulled him out because it was too firm on quickish ground.

“He’s fit and well and he’ll take his chance.”

El Presente, who won the Badger Beers at Wincanton, bids to give trainer Kim Bailey a third win in this race after Mr Frisk (1990) and Docklands Express (1991).

“He’s fine after Ludlow – it was very much with the idea of getting him back after his break during the winter,” he said.

“It’s certainly been our view to go here after he won the Badger Beers. Whether he’s good enough is another matter, but that’s always been the plan.

“He’s got conditions in his favour on a right-handed track, so the rest of it is in the lap of the Gods.”

Potterman was runner-up to El Presente at Wincanton and has been absent since unseating his rider in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury in November.

“He obviously hasn’t run since Newbury, but it was always the plan to give him a winter holiday,” said his trainer Alan King.

Alan King has kept Potterman fresh for the Sandown feature
Alan King has kept Potterman fresh for the Sandown feature (David Davies/PA)

“He’s back I think in very good form and I’ve always thought he’s marginally better going right-handed – some of his best form is at places like Market Rasen and Wincanton.

“He was in the Scottish National, but with the right-handed thing in mind, we thought we’d keep him back for this.

“I hope he can run well. It’s obviously the furthest he’s been, so we’ll see.”

Plan Of Attack bids to become the first Irish-trained winner since Michael Hourigan’s Church Island in 2010.

The eight-year-old is with Henry de Bromhead, who has picked up the biggest prizes at Cheltenham and Aintree this spring.

“He seemed to be going well (when falling at Cheltenham) and all I can tell you is Rachael (Blackmore) is very keen to go over and ride him. I wouldn’t be a great tipster myself, but she seems keen,” said the County Waterford handler.

“It’s three-miles-five and I suppose, like we saw with Minella Times in the National, this guy hasn’t really been tried over this kind of trip.

“We’ve always thought it might suit him and we’re hoping that we get improvement for that extra trip.”

Christian Williams is double-handed with Cap Du Nord and Kitty’s Light, whose long-term target has been this race.

“This has been the plan with Kitty’s Light since the Badger Beers,” he said.

“He’s only a baby, so we gave him a couple of runs in all-weather bumps for experience and went to Kelso then as a prep for this.

Kitty’s Light (right) is one of two runners for trainer Christian Williams
Kitty’s Light (right) is one of two runners for trainer Christian Williams (David Davies/PA)

“If you put a line through Cap Du Nord’s last run over hurdles you’d give him a chance.

“He’s run to a good level in good staying chases this year, so I’d be hopeful he’ll run well.

“He’s improved all season. He obviously pulled up at Kelso, but that can happen with chasers back over hurdles. You try to exploit their mark, but we won’t run him over hurdles again as it didn’t work for him.

“We look forward to running the pair of them.”

The Young Master, who was victorious in 2016, is one of two runners from Neil Mulholland’s stable along with Doing Fine.

“Both horses seem fine. They have both got good course and distance form,” he said.

“They have been there and done it. I’m hoping they run a good solid and respectable race, but life is getting tougher now they are getting older.”