The Festival hopes of Paisley Park hinge on pace.
If Paisley Park is to reclaim the title, Emma Lavelle believes that a faster pace in the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle is essential.
He won the race in 2019, but the previous two years, he finished third, behind Flooring Porter, which was driven by Gavin Cromwell.
He won the rearranged Long Walk Hurdle at Kempton, proving that even at 11 years old, he is still a force to be reckoned with. However, he finished almost 10 lengths behind French raider Gold Tweet in the Cleeve Hurdle the previous time.
“Paisley Park has come out of the Cleeve Hurdle well and seems in good order,” said Lavelle.
“He has had an easy time of it since, but we will start to build him back up for the Stayers’ Hurdle this week and roll into Cheltenham.
“I only feel he needs to step back up a little bit and if he does, then he won’t be far away in the Stayers’ Hurdle. They just didn’t go quick enough in the Cleeve.
“He hasn’t suddenly sprouted wings, the only reason he was in that position (handy) is that they hadn’t gone quick enough for him and then the quickening happened too late.
“When that happens he can’t then hit his flat spot and stay on while the others are coming back to him, which is what happened in the Cleeve.”
Lavelle also believes that the shape of her yard at the time may have contributed.
“Our horses, until recently, haven’t been running great and we have had a number of them coughing and a few with snotty noses,” she said.
“I know he won a Grade One through all of that at Kempton Park over Christmas, but why wouldn’t he have something on him when everything else in the yard appears to have had it.
“He has been great for us for a good few seasons but we know it isn’t going to last forever as he is 11 years old now.
“He has been rated in the 160s for five seasons and there are not many horses, as the statistics show, that are rated above 150 in this country.
“When you look at how hard it is to get horses to be vaguely competitive at Cheltenham, we are lucky to have him.”
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