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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.

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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.

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“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.

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“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.