Leading stayer Paisley Park for trainer Emma Lavelle is set to be on track to defend his title in the Grade Two Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham on Saturday, seeking a hat-trick in the event.
Paisley Park showed he is back to his best this season after a superb second behind the young pretender Thyme Hill in the Grade Two Long Distance Cup at Newbury on his seasonal debut and then backed that up by reversing the form in the Grade One Long Walk Hurdle.
The eight year old at the Cheltenham festival last season was looking to extend his unbeaten run to eight races and also land back to back renewals of the Stayers Hurdle having been the horse to beat in they Stayers' Hurdle division, but it was not to be for the fan favourite.
After the race it was found that the son of Oscar had come back with an irregular heartbeat that was certainly the cause of his underwhelming run in the Grade One he dominated last season.
Now, the Andrew Gemmell owned horse is said to be back to his best having been given the all clear from the vets and the frequent winner has been wearing a heart monitor in pieces of his work at home and the problem has not resurfaced.
Although the gelding was taking on much younger horses on his return in November and giving weight away he still ran to a high standard.
He cemented the idea that his run in the 2020 Stayers' Hurdle was a blip when coming from the clouds to land his second Grade One Long Walk Hurdle last time out, reversing the form with Thyme Hill in the final stages.
It was one of the races of the season so far and one of the performances of the term by Paisley Park and Lavelle has expressed how well he has come out of the event and is now ready for his third consecutive tilt at the Cleeve Hurdle.
(Credit ATR) “On paper it might not look as tough as the Long Walk, that’s true, and he’s in great order,” said Lavelle.
“What will be nice will be to go back to Cheltenham and have a nice experience after what happened at the Festival last year.
“While I’m glad there’s not going to be a massive field, I want him to have a nice experience. I certainly wouldn’t say it looks easy, though – all races at this level are difficult.
“We’ll be giving weight away, but he seems in great order and the timing of this race is absolutely perfect as we can let him down a bit after it.
“Obviously the ground looks like being testing, but we can’t do much about that. We’d love it if the forecast was a bit better and it wasn’t a real slog, but it is what it is. He loves racing, this horse.”