Tag Archive for: Long Distance Hurdle

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.

Indefatigable on course for Paisley Park rematch

Paul Webber feels Indefatigable will have to find improvement to land Friday’s Ladbrokes Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury.

Winner of the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival, the eight-year-old mare enters the three-mile contest on the back of a authoritative victory in the bet365 Hurdle at Wetherby.

Indefatigable is currently 7-2 second-favourite with the race sponsors behind former Stayers’ Hurdle winner Paisley Park, whom she had behind her at Wetherby, and Webber is hopeful she will acquit herself well and frank that form.

Webber said: “The plan is Friday. Indefatigable seems very well. It is obviously going to be a bit more difficult for her than it was at Wetherby, at the weights with the penalty, but she is in very good form.

“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.

“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.

“After that run, much depends on what sort of winter we have, because she doesn’t want very soft ground. We are just hoping we can get past Newbury and then make a plan, depending on what the weather does.”

Johnson believes Thyme is right for Stayers’ title

Richard Johnson will always have fond memories of the Stayers’ Hurdle, and he believes Thyme Hill can give him another success in the race that was the source of his first Cheltenham Festival winner 21 years ago.

Having failed to land the Grade One prize since steering Anzum to victory in 1999, the 43-year-old thinks he has found a horse capable of ending that drought following the Philip Hobbs-trained gelding’s victory in the Ladbrokes Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury.

In race that could have easily have passed for a top-level test, the six-year-old made a triumphant return in claiming the Grade Two by a length and a quarter, leaving Johnson excited about the season ahead.

Johnson said: “Anzum was my first Festival winner and David Nicholson’s last, so it was a big moment for me. That is a long time ago, but there are lots of fond memories and hopefully this horse is heading in the right direction.

“There was plenty of strength and depth to the race today and I’m sure plenty of people will knock it as it was not the truest-run race, but I don’t think it would have been a positive for my lad either.”

Thyme Hill was squeezed short for room at a crucial time in the Albert Bartlett at the Cheltenham Festival back in March and Johnson feels the pair have unfinished business together at the meeting.

He added: “He was the one I was really looking forward to at Cheltenham last season, but things just didn’t fall our way.

“I can’t say he would have definitely won, but he didn’t get any luck on the day. I’d like to think that hopefully with what he showed today, he can go back to Cheltenham next year and have a proper go. It was fantastic to start off the season in that way.”

Johnson has been privileged to partner plenty of top-class horses during his career, and he is in little doubt that Thyme Hill possesses all the attributes to be a regular in Grade One company for years to come.

He added: “What I love about him is that he is very straightforward. When you ask him to do something, he wants to please. He is the ideal racehorse in that he gets on with it, stays well, jumps really nicely and he has shown he has a huge amount of ability.

“You ride lots of nice horses, but to have a Grade One horse, they are hard to find and not easy to come by, so when you find one you are very pleased.”

Winning a fifth jump jockeys title may be one battle too many for Johnson this season, but with the likes of last season’s Challow Hurdle winner among his mounts, it has given him a renewed enthusiasm for the campaign.

He added: “The championship is the most important thing you can aim at, but you look forward to having horses like him and Defi Du Seuil.

“When we had the likes of Menorah, Wishfull Thinking and Captain Chris, we were probably a bit spoiled as we had three top-class horses all together.

“It is lovely though to have some very smart horses at Philip’s – like Thyme Hill – and some other nice ones you are hoping will develop further down the line.”

Top stayers in line for Newbury showdown

Lisnagar Oscar and Paisley Park could be set for an early-season face-off in the Ladbrokes Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury on Friday.

The Rebecca Curtis-trained Lisnagar Oscar was a shock 50-1 winner of the Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival back in March and reappeared at Wetherby last month, finishing fourth in a Grade Two heat.

Paisley Park won the 2019 Stayers’ Hurdle for Emma Lavelle, but he was only seventh in his title defence, although it later emerged he had suffered from a defibrillating heart. He will be having his first start since in a race he won last year.

Summerville Boy finished fifth in the Stayers’ and he already has a win under his belt for Tom George this term, while Sam Spinner, a Grade One winner over hurdles three years ago, could revert to the smaller obstacles for Jedd O’Keeffe after being pulled up in the Charlie Hall Chase last month.

The Paul Nicholls-trained McFabulous is another leading contender with ex-Ditcheat inmate Aux Ptits Soins entered by Dan Skelton having been off the track since May 2019.

Albert Bartlett fourth Thyme Hill, Honest Vic, One Night In Milan, Vision Des Flos and Royal Ascot winner Who Dares Wins are the other contenders.