Tag Archive for: Long Walk Hurdle

What to do with a ‘high-class problem’ like Champ?

JP McManus has put so much into National Hunt racing that one can be forgiven that most races and most horses mean as much as any other to him. Nothing could be further from the truth.

He rarely gives much away. Yet the softly-spoken Irishman still gets an almighty craic from the big days and there is no question he is one of the most compassionate when it comes to any of his horses.

But at Ascot on Saturday he admitted that there is one horse who holds a special place in his heart, one that he insists now gives him “a high-class problem”.

Champ has undoubtedly had his problems. A Grade One winner over hurdles (Sefton Novices’ Hurdle) and over fences (RSA Novices’ Chase, beating Minella Indo), he was pulled up in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March and had a subsequent back operation.

His reappearance at Ascot after nine months off in the Howden Long Walk Hurdle was supposed to be something of a fact-finding mission for Nicky Henderson’s charge, a prep run for bigger things to come.

Yet he showed real determination, finding a second wind and coming back on the bridle to win with ease. The official verdict was a length and three-quarters, but in truth he simply broke runner-up Thyme Hill’s heart.

In this calendar year, Champ has had three runs – the Game Spirit Chase, Cheltenham Gold Cup and Long Walk Hurdle. An unlikely trio if ever there was one.

So now connections have a problem. The nine-year-old – named after 20-time champion Sir Anthony McCoy – is such a talent that he has McManus and Henderson in a quandary.

“Which race to go for – the Gold Cup or Stayers’ Hurdle? We’ll leave it to Nicky,” said McManus.

“I’ve no problem staying over hurdles and equally, if he goes over fences, I have no problem with that.”

Unusually, he candidly added: “There are few horses in training that give me as much pleasure as this horse.

“He is named after the man he’s named after (McCoy) and he is a slow or late-maturing horse who has had niggly problems all his life, but Nicky has shown tremendous patience in dealing with them and giving him the time.

“No horse gives me as much pleasure. We deliberated a long time before we put it (McCoy’s nickname) on a horse, so we thought a lot of him from the start.”

Champ in full flight
Champ in full flight (Nigel French/PA)

Champ has won six of his eight races over hurdles now and the Stayers’ Hurdle is certainly on the radar, especially since Henderson has lost – for the time being at least – his top hope Buzz. The ante-post favourite was ruled out with a pelvic injury on the eve of the Long Walk.

Though immediately cut to 4-1 favourite for the Stayers’ by Coral afterwards, another crack at the Gold Cup remains a possibility, should his jumping not hold him back.

For Henderson, it was merely a relief to get him back on course after his back operation and McManus was keen to pay tribute to the veteran trainer.

“It was a great training performance by Nicky,” said McManus.

“After Cheltenham last year, it was challenging. I wouldn’t know much about the injury, but he had a back injury and Nicky did a tremendous job to get him back and I have to give him full marks.

“Champ summered well and he came back in good form, and we hoped that this is what he would do, but you never know, especially after that run in the Gold Cup, which was a disappointing run for everybody.

“It is back to the drawing board, but he looked to enjoy himself.”

Champ sees off Thyme Hill
Champ sees off Thyme Hill (Nigel French/PA)

While Henderson felt his class may be an asset ahead of the Long Walk, he insisted he would need the run.

McManus added: “Nicky had him fairly ready in fairness. He doesn’t leave too much to chance.

“I would say he will be better for the run and it was exciting when he ran a little bit free about 10 furlongs out – I said, ‘God, not so early – there is plenty of time for that’.

“But he did well to see it out and get his second wind and see off Thyme Hill.”

Of course, the billion dollar question remains.

“I would like to do the right thing, whatever that is,” said McManus.

“I’d like to do the right thing for the horse, whether it is the Gold Cup or the Stayers’.

“Let’s see how he comes out of this. It is a high-class problem!”

And in Henderson, McManus and McCoy, there is no better team to solve it.

Long Walk up for grabs with Buzz ruled out

The Howden Long Walk Hurdle market was thrown into disarray on Friday morning with the news that ante-post favourite Buzz will miss the race through injury.

Buzz – winner of the Cesarewitch and a leading fancy for the Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival – suffered a suspected fractured pelvis on Nicky Henderson’s Seven Barrows gallops during morning exercise ahead of his Ascot run.

The field is now reduced to eight, which includes last year’s first two – Paisley Park and Thyme Hill – while Thomas Darby and Ronald Pump seek their first top-level success.

While Henderson is naturally distraught that last month’s Coral Ascot Hurdle winner will now be sidelined, he is still doubly represented with On The Blind Side and Champ.

Champ reverts to the smaller obstacles on his first competitive appearance since being pulled up in the Cheltenham Gold Cup nine months ago.

Henderson admitted: “He has had his issues, particularly his jumping, really. But his jumping was suffering because he had a bad back. He has had back surgery and we are very happy where he is with his work.

“We just felt that with his jumping in particular, bearing in mind that if he goes over fences, he has to go left-handed – not left-handed over hurdles – this was a good spot, especially since I can’t find a left-handed chase that suits him.

“So, our main objective, while he has got to try to win the Long Walk Hurdle, if he does run well, we might just say, ‘hang on a minute, are we not better off looking at the Stayers’ Hurdle rather than the Gold Cup?’

“The intention will be to go back chasing, but you never know.

“Above all, I am trying to boost his confidence and get him to enjoy himself – which he will do, I hope, over hurdles. It is going to be a very tough race.”

Henderson’s second string is On the Blind Side, who was runner-up to Thomas Darby on his seasonal debut in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury last month.

“On The Blind Side can’t go anywhere else,” added Henderson.

“He is so consistent, game and genuine that he has to run in these races. He will never lie down.”

Thyme Hill has won five of his eight starts over hurdles for Philip Hobbs and was runner-up in this race last season after a thrilling duel with Paisley Park.

However, having signed off last season with victory in the Grade One Liverpool Hurdle, the seven-year-old needs to bounce back from a disappointing seasonal bow in France last month, when beaten 41 at Auteuil.

Hobbs said: “He seems in very good form.

“I hope we haven’t left our season behind in France, as when he ran over there the ground was bad and we put it down to that more than anything else.

“We don’t know how much it has taken out of him until we run him.”

Ronald Pump has been second to Honeysuckle in the Hatton's Grace two years in a row
Ronald Pump has been second to Honeysuckle in the Hatton’s Grace two years in a row (PA Wire)

Ronald Pump represents Ireland. Michael Smith’s stable star found only the brilliant mare Honeysuckle too good, when finishing second in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse for the second successive year to her, on his reappearance.

Smith said: “We’d love to win a Grade One with him somewhere. He has been really consistent throughout his career and he seems to have come out of Fairyhouse really well.

“If he can reproduce that effort on Saturday, he would have a good chance.”

Ronald Pump bids to avenge his 2020 Stayers’ Hurdle defeat by Lisnagar Oscar, who re-opposes, along with last season’s Rendlesham Hurdle winner, the Hughie Morrison-trained Third Wind.

The Emma Lavelle-trained Paisley Park will be bidding for a third Long Walk success after triumphing in 2018 and landing the prize again last year.

The nine-year-old’s owner, Andrew Gemmell, remains keen to have another crack at the Stayers’ Hurdle, which he won in 2018, despite having the option of going chasing.

Gemmell said: “It is going to be tough with Thyme Hill in there, but it is what it is – it is big race and we have won two of the last three, so we are hoping for three out of four.

“There is a bigger field than there was at Newbury and hopefully a stronger pace – and that is important. That will definitely suit us.

“At the moment, I would have to say that the Stayers’ Hurdle will be the plan of attack. Ascot on Saturday, then the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham and the Stayers’ Hurdle is the most likely route forward.”

With regular partner Aidan Coleman ruled out through suspension, Tom Bellamy comes in for the ride.

Gemmell added: “While the timing of Aidan’s suspension is not ideal, Tom has been riding well and he has had plenty of conversations with him. It is a great opportunity for him.”

Long Distance Hurdle winner Thomas Darby is out to give trainer Olly Murphy his second Grade One success.

The in-form Wilmcote trainer said: “He’s in good form. It looks a very competitive race but I’m looking forward to running him.

“Fingers crossed he’ll back his Newbury run up. He’ll have an each-way chance.”

Tom Bellamy confirmed for Paisley Park ride

Tom Bellamy will be keeping the saddle warm for suspended Aidan Coleman when Paisley Park lines up in his bid to win a third Howden Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot on Saturday.

The nine-year-old gave trainer Emma Lavelle the biggest win of her career to date when powering home to land the 2019 Stayers’ Hurdle under Coleman, who has partnered Paisley Park in his last 14 starts.

Coleman was handed a seven-day suspension and a £1,550 fine for overuse of the whip aboard Becher Chase winner Snow Leopardess at Aintree last Saturday.

The timing “is not ideal” according to Paisley Park’s owner, Andrew Gemmell, who said: “The stewards deemed to give Aidan a week. It seems a bit stiff.

“It is not ideal, but Tom has been riding very well and Aidan’s had lots of conversations with him, so I’m sure he will be fine.

“I would think that, long-term, he is still Aidan’s ride, for sure.”

Owner Andrew Gemmell (centre) says the Stayers' Hurdle is still the plan for Paisley Park
Owner Andrew Gemmell (centre) says the Stayers’ Hurdle is still the plan for Paisley Park (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Paisley Park will run minus the cheekpieces in the Grade One event, as Lavelle felt he slightly overraced when an 11-length third behind Thomas Darby in the  Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury last month.

The trainer has been toying with the idea of going chasing with Paisley Park, although a dry autumn may have put that option on the back burner.

Gemmell said: “While the rains have now come, in terms of going chasing, it is now very late in the season. Obviously, Saturday is important to see how he is progressing. It is a very strong field and let’s hope he puts his best foot forward. We’re hoping to win!

Paisley Park came from the clouds to win last year's Long Walk
Paisley Park came from the clouds to win last year’s Long Walk (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“At the moment, I would have to say that the Stayers’ Hurdle will be the plan of attack. Ascot on Saturday, then the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham, followed by the Stayers’ Hurdle is the most likely route forward.

“I think that cancelling the Cleeve Hurdle last year cost us in the Stayers’ Hurdle, as he was perhaps a little short, so it would be nice if they did run it this time.”

Speaking to Sky Sports Racing on Monday, Bellamy said he was “on cloud nine” after the “massive opportunity” to partner Paisley Park.

He added: “I’ve had a few goes on him since Aidan’s news came out – I hadn’t before that – I’ve ridden a piece of work on him and schooled him.

“He wouldn’t set the world alight at home – he’s a staying hurdler, of course he wouldn’t. But at the same time he struts about like he’s got a bit of class and he’s enjoyable to ride.”

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.”

Long Walk back at Ascot set to be next target for Buzz

Ascot’s Coral Hurdle winner Buzz will return to his favourite track in the Long Walk Hurdle on December 18, after taking Saturday’s exertions well, according to Thurloe Thoroughbreds founder James Stafford.

Stayers’ Hurdle sponsors Paddy Power cut the galloping grey, trained by Nicky Henderson, to 8-1 (from 12s) for their race, following the cosy three-and-a-quarter-length success in the extended two-mile-three-furlong Grade Two contest.

Stafford feels the seven-year-old, who was previously seen winning the Cesarewitch at Newmarket under Oisin Murphy, is a “natural athlete” and should continue to progress.

He said: “It was a great thrill to see him do that, especially as there is always the worry that he may not bounce back after his exertions in the Cesarewitch.

“He was in great form and it was marvellous to see him do what we always thought he was capable of doing. He has always looked as if he wants two and a half miles and probably further – and he definitely wants further.

“They went a good pace and it was a good test for them. It was a truly-run race and Song For Someone was always going to ensure there was a good pace.

“As soon as we know everything is OK – and I think everything is OK, as he has come out of the race all right – the plan is to make sure he is tickety-boo for the Long Walk Hurdle on December 18.

“He has been a revelation, really. We knew he was a nice horse when we bought him, but that does not automatically transfer from being a nice horse into hurdling, but he has done really well.

“He jumped three or four flights of hurdles in his build-up to this race and he just takes things very naturally. He is a natural athlete and it is very exciting.”

A quarter of the prize money earned by Buzz, who races in the familiar lime and yellow silks of the Thurloe Thoroughbreds, goes to the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity.

Stafford added: “The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity in aid of the Oak Cancer Centre, which they are building, is going to benefit from the syndicate.

“So, that has benefitted enormously from the prize-money the horses have earned – it is not just Buzz.

“My brother-in-law, Oliver Pawle, is on the board of the Oak Cancer Centre Appeal board and we know the chap who chairs it, Mike Slade, who has had horses all his life including with David Elsworth. We have a got a lot of racing people involved.

“The idea was put up two years ago that we would form a syndicate and try to benefit the charity by donating 25 per cent of the prize-money.

“We had no idea how it would work, but it has worked out surprisingly well. We never thought we’d raise £54,000 which is what we are going to be doing for this year.

“It would be nice to think Buzz will be able to continue to add to that.

“Buzz will tell us when he is ready, but the Long Walk is the target and he is back on his favourite track – he has won two of three at Ascot, so let’s see if he can make it three from four.”

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.”

Paisley Park strikes late to regain Long Walk crown

Paisley Park returned to winning ways with a power-packed finish to catch Thyme Hill in the dying strides of the Porsche Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot.

Emma Lavelle’s 2019 Stayers’ Hurdle winner looked beaten turning for home as he got caught out of his ground leaving the back straight.

At the head of affairs, Thyme Hill and Roksana were still apparently going powerfully, and Paisley Park looked to need a minor miracle.

On jumping the last Aidan Coleman went into overdrive, but still seemed to have a mountain to climb – with Thyme Hill, who had seen off Roksana, looking sure to collect.

But Paisley Park (9-4), who is well known for his strong finishes, picked up impressively in the testing conditions to win by a neck.

The result is even more meritorious, considering Paisley Park was found to be suffering from a fibrillating heart when he was beaten at Cheltenham in March.

The eight-year-old is now 7-2 favourite to regain his Cheltenham crown too at the Festival with Betfair.

Lavelle said: “I think I’m more concerned about my heart now than his!

“I can’t wait to get home and watch the race, because it looked a good one, but I had my eyes on him the whole way – wondering if he was going to get there.

“I never thought he was beaten, just because I know what he is like, and then the turbo kicked in – which is quite apt, given the race was sponsored by Porsche this year.

“It looks like his heart problem has cleared up. We’ve had no cause for concerns, and it seems to be functioning well at the minute – it hasn’t frightened him, which was the key thing.

“He’s cheeky because he pricked his ears on crossing the line as if to say ‘I’ve done that now, thanks’ – he’s a special horse.

“We love horses that come back – they are great for racing and really help sell it.

“If he’s fine and well there’s the option of going to the Cleeve if we think we have to. We’ll see closer to the time, before running in March.”

Paisley Park and Thyme Hill to clash in Long Walk

Paisley Park and Thyme Hill have been declared among a field of 10 in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot – for round two of what could become a compelling rivalry.

Emma Lavelle’s Paisley Park was the pre-eminent force in the staying hurdle division for two seasons until the Cheltenham Festival in March when he could finish only seventh and was subsequently found to have a fibrillating heart.

With that problem solved, he made his reappearance at Newbury where he looked back to his normal self but could not quite reel in Philip Hobbs’ Thyme Hill, who was having his first run out of novice company.

The younger Thyme Hill was in receipt of 3lb at Newbury, and won by a length and a half, so their second clash on Saturday is eagerly anticipated.

Lavelle told Sky Sports Racing: “I was thrilled to bits with him at Newbury – it was great to get him back and see him finish with his usual tenacity.

“Although the race was funnily run, it was probably ideal because it meant he didn’t have a hard race at that stage of the season – and it gave us our confidence back.

“At Cheltenham, at the point you expected him to do his thing, he wasn’t able – (so) it was to his credit he wasn’t beaten that far.

“You could see when he got back to the stable his heart wasn’t beating in rhythm. It’s not uncommon, and they reckon good horses do it more than others because they tend to have bigger hearts.”

Paisley Park soon began to demonstrate he was back in full health, and trainer Lavelle added: “The situation rectified itself – which was good. If you have to intervene, it is more concerning.

“There clearly is a chance it can happen again, but I think it is less likely to happen again than likely – it didn’t happen again to Denman or Sprinter Sacre, so hopefully he can follow in their footsteps.

“If the Long Walk was last Saturday he’d have been ready to go. He’s definitely come forward from Newbury, and we’re looking forward to it.”

Paisley Park won the Long Walk in 2018 but was an 11th-hour withdrawal last year on the morning of the race because of very testing ground.

In his absence, The Worlds End took full advantage – and he is back to defend his crown, having left Tom George and now with Olly Murphy.

Stratford trainer Murphy said of his new charge: “He’s in good nick – he’s obviously not getting any younger, and I think this year’s renewal is probably as competitive as when we last saw Big Buck’s.

“(But) hopefully a change in yards will just spark a little bit of a revival.

“Obviously, Tom did a fantastic job with this lad – he won a couple of Grade Ones with him.

“We’re jumping in at the deep end to go and defend his crown, but he’s in good form.

“He’s been away for a gallop on grass, so (lack of) fitness certainly won’t be getting him beaten.

“But I’d say if he finished in the first four, he’ll have run a cracker.”

Way back in 2015 Thistlecrack won the Long Walk Hurdle
Way back in 2015 Thistlecrack won the Long Walk Hurdle (PA Wire)

There is another previous winner of the race returning too, in Colin Tizzard’s veteran Thistlecrack – who was at his imperious best when cruising through the 2015 renewal on the bridle.

David Pipe’s incredible Main Fact is bidding for a 10th successive win, with three having come on the Flat. He arrives after extending his sequence in a Haydock handicap which both Sam Spinner and Paisley Park also won before taking this in previous years.

Dan Skelton’s mare Roksana will have her supporters following an impressive win at Wetherby, while Ronan McNally sends over The Jam Man from Northern Ireland.

However, Gordon Elliott has decided against sending dual Pertemps Final winner Sire Du Berlais.

Portrush Ted, Third Wind and Younevercall complete the field.

Thyme Hill ready for Long Walk

Philip Hobbs has confirmed Thyme Hill is on course for this weekend’s Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot.

The six-year-old showed his well-being over five furlongs on the woodchip gallop at Hobbs’ Minehead yard on Tuesday as he fine-tuned preparations for Saturday’s Grade One.

Thyme Hill staked a big claim for honours in the staying division when winning the Long Distance Hurdle on his seasonal debut at Newbury last month, with runner-up Paisley Park set to renew rivalry at Ascot.

“Thyme Hill had his last proper gallop before the race this morning, and he went particularly well,” Hobbs told Nick Luck’s podcast.

“We’re very happy with him and intend to run.

“Everything has gone particularly well since Newbury. He’s been very healthy, very well – and most importantly he worked well this morning.

“Richard Johnson schools him on Thursday morning – and all being all right, we’ll be there on Saturday.

“I don’t see any reason that the testing track and the very soft ground should be a problem.”

Hobbs also provided a positive update on Defi De Seuil, who was pulled up before the final fence when beaten in the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham last month.

“He’s had plenty of tests since he ran. Nothing has come to light – he seems in good form, so I imagine we’ll be aiming towards the Clarence House,” he said.

Defi Du Seuil put in an exemplary performance to land last season’s edition of the Grade One chase at Ascot in January.

Thistlecrack poised to return in Long Walk Hurdle

Thistlecrack is likely to try to bridge a five-year gap and win the Porsche Long Walk Hurdle for a second time at Ascot on Saturday.

It was back in 2015 when Colin Tizzard’s highly-talented performer took the Group One staying prize, denying Reve De Sivola a fourth consecutive win in the race.

Thistlecrack went on to land the World Hurdle that season before switching to chasing and winning the King George at Kempton at Christmas 2016.

He has had his problems since then and his last race came over the smaller obstacles in the 2019 Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury. where he was only beaten a length by Paisley Park.

That was a year ago and Tizzard reports the 12-year-old to be in rude health and ready to return the fray.

“He had a racecourse gallop last week. He’s in cracking form so, as long as all goes right this week, we’ll have a go,” said the Dorset handler.

“He didn’t start racing until he was seven so he’s not an old man in that respect. We’ll give him a run and see where we are.

“He’s had an away day and he’s done a lot of work. Hopefully by the end of the week we’ll get all the green lights and we can go.”

Paisley Park is also among a list of 14 confirmed for the Long Walk at the five-day stage.

Emma Lavelle’s class performer took this Grade One prize in 2018 on the way to winning the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham the following March.

Disappointing in last season’s Stayers’ Hurdle, Paisley Park made an encouraging comeback when second to Thyme Hill in this year’s Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury last month.

Thyme Hill got the better of Paisley Park at Newbury last month
Thyme Hill got the better of Paisley Park at Newbury last month (Nigel French/PA)

The Philip Hobbs-trained six-year-old is among his potential opposition along with a three previous winner of this race, The Worlds End (2019). He took advantage of Paisley Park’s late withdrawal due to the heavy ground.

Dan Skelton has targeted this race for Roksana since her victory in the bet365 Hurdle at Wetherby.

“I was delighted with her at Wetherby,” said the Alcester handler.

“She went back to her owners for a little while just to recharge her batteries really so she could come back the best she could be.

“I’m really happy with her and she looks fantastic. The lad who rides her out every day says she feels as good as she could.

“We are going to take on the front two from Newbury which is the next level. They have got to give seven pounds to her and over three miles in what is likely to be soft ground that will be telling.

“I never had any intention of going to Newbury. The plan was always to go to Wetherby then to Ascot. It is going to be a good race.”

Gordon Elliott’s Sire Du Berlais and the Ronan McNally-trained The Jam Man are the two Irish-trained possibles, while David Pipe could take the plunge with the prolific Main Fact, winner of his last nine races.

Completing the list are Lil Rockerfeller, Portrush Ted, Third Wind, Thomas Darby and Younevercall.

Kildisart also holds an entry in the Ascot Silver Cup Handicap Chase on the same card.

Paisley Park and Thyme Hill in line for Long Walk rematch at Ascot

Paisley Park will face a maximum of 13 rivals in his bid to regain the Porsche Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot on Saturday.

Emma Lavelle’s classy performer took the Grade One prize in 2018 on the way to winning the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham the following March.

He was set to attempt to retain his Long Walk crown last December, but was a late withdrawal due to the heavy ground.

Disappointing in last season’s Stayers’ Hurdle, Paisley Park made an encouraging comeback when second to Thyme Hill in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury.

Thyme Hill got the better of Paisley Park at Newbury last month
Thyme Hill got the better of Paisley Park at Newbury last month (Nigel French/PA)

The Philip Hobbs-trained six-year-old is among his potential opposition, while there are two other previous winners among the five-day confirmations in the shape of Thistlecrack (2015) and The Worlds End (2019).

Dan Skelton has targeted this race for Roksana since her victory in the bet365 Hurdle at Wetherby.

“I was delighted with her at Wetherby,” said the Alcester handler.

“She went back to her owners for a little while just to recharge her batteries really so she could come back the best she could be.

“I’m really happy with her and she looks fantastic. The lad who rides her out every day says she feels as good as she could.

“We are going to take on the front two from Newbury, which is the next level. They have got to give 7lb to her and over three miles in what is likely to be soft ground that will be telling.

“I never had any intention of going to Newbury. The plan was always to go to Wetherby then to Ascot. It is going to be a good race.”

Gordon Elliott’s Sire Du Berlais and the Ronan McNally-trained The Jam Man are the two Irish-trained possibles, while David Pipe could take the plunge with the prolific Main Fact, winner of his last nine races.

Completing the list are Lil Rockerfeller, Portrush Ted, Third Wind, Thomas Darby and Younevercall.

Kildisart also holds an entry in the Ascot Silver Cup Handicap Chase on the same card.