Trainer Emma Lavelle confident for Paisley Park in Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot

Trainer Emma Lavelle confident for Paisley Park’s chances in Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot as they look to take the race to favourite Thyme Hill

  • Paisley Park is in good shape for the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot on Saturday 
  • Emma Lavelle nursed the horse back into shape for his return at Newbury
  • She hopes Paisley Park will take the fight to race favourite Thyme Hill  

Trainer Emma Lavelle says that even though Paisley Park did not win his comeback race at Newbury last month, it filled both her and her horse with confidence ahead of Saturday’s Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot.

Twelve months ago, heavy ground prompted Lavelle to pull Paisley Park out of the Long Walk after a tough comeback win from Thistlecrack in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury.

On the back foot throughout the season, Paisley Park went on to lose his Stayers’ Hurdle crown at the Cheltenham Festival when found to be suffering from an irregular heartbeat.

Trainer Emma Lavelle hopes Paisley Park (right) will take victory at Ascot on Saturday

Lavelle nursed Paisley Park back into shape for his Newbury return, when he showed the fire was still burning despite going down by a length-and-a-half to favourite Thyme Hill, trying to concede 3lb. On Saturday they meet on level terms.

Lavelle said: ‘It is very rare you come second in a race and feel ‘that’s brilliant’ but that is kind of what we felt after Newbury.

‘We had to do plenty with him before he ran but it was a bit more natural progression than forcing him to get there. He just got so much confidence out of the race and we got confidence in him again. Last year after he had such a hard race at Newbury, we were wondering whether we would get him to Ascot. This year we would have been ready even if Ascot was last weekend.

‘He just seems better and hopefully it has set him up for the rest of the season.

‘Clearly it would be nicer if it wasn’t extremes of ground but we are lucky Paisley doesn’t seem to be ground-dependent.’

Despite the confidence in the Paisley Park camp, the challenge facing Aidan Coleman’s mount is significant. In theory, the weight pull should bring him and Thyme Hill closer but Richard Johnson’s mount looked to have a bit left in the tank.

A Grade One winner as a novice, Thyme Hill’s only defeat over hurdles came when a close fourth to Monkfish in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle last season, and he was hampered going to the last.

Paisley Park will likely have to overcome race favourite Thyme Hill in the Long Walk Hurdle

Paisley Park will likely have to overcome race favourite Thyme Hill in the Long Walk Hurdle

Also in the line-up are two previous winners – Thistlecrack (2015) and The Worlds End (2019) – plus Grade One winning mare Roksana, representing trainer Dan Skelton, who won the Grade Two Sky Bet Kennel Gate Hurdle at the track yesterday with My Drogo.

Most striking performance of the day came from Nicky Henderson’s Allart, who swept past Fiddlerontheroof to win the Noel Novices’ Chase on seasonal debut to earn quotes of 25-1 for the Arkle Novices’ Chase and 16-1 for the Marsh Novices’ Chase.

Easywork, runner-up to Gordon Elliott-trained stablemate Envoi Allen in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle last season and a leading novice chase contender for spring’s Cheltenham Festival, has died after a heart attack on the gallops.

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