Paisley Park is rated the banker bet of the Cheltenham Festival by many and will start odds-on favourite for the Stayers’ Hurdle. He has around 12lbs in hand on official ratings and is difficult to oppose. We rate 2018 winner Penhill as his biggest danger after an encouraging run at Navan in February. Our best each-way bet is City Island who reverts to hurdling after failing to make the grade over fences this season.
Paisley Park is now unbeaten in seven races, including his thrilling victory in this race 12 months’ ago. Emma Lavelle’s gelding had progressed through handicaps to win the Long Walk Hurdle and the Cleeve Hurdle, both significant trials. He was one of the best-backed horses at last season’s Cheltenham Festival and did not let his supporters down.
The son of Oscar has enjoyed a perfect preparation this season, winning at Newbury in November before repeating his Cleeve Hurdle victory at Cheltenham. He does tend to hit a flat spot in his races but there is no stronger finisher in the stayers’ division. He led at the final flight last time before comfortably holding Summerville Boy by a length and a quarter.
All types of ground seem to come alike to Paisley Park and he is very difficult to oppose. Jockey Aidan Coleman has been in the saddle for all seven victories and knows him extremely well. Paisley Park is the confident selection here at 4-6 with Paddy Power.
Willie Mullins saddles 2018 winner Penhill, a nine-year-old gelding by Mount Nelson. He has won seven of his fifteen races over hurdles but was denied a run last year by injury. Penhill eventually returned to action in December after a 584-day absence. He was well beaten that day but has gradually shown an improvement in form, most recently finishing second at Navan last month.
That was in the Grade 2 Boyne Hurdle, a race notable for the return of dual Grand National winner Tiger Roll. Penhill’s promising effort in second place was overshadowed by the media attention surrounding Gordon Elliott’s star chaser. Apart from Paisley Park, this does not look like a particularly strong renewal and Penhill is rated the main danger at 12-1 with Bet365.
Emitom won the Grade 2 Rendlesham Hurdle at Haydock in heavy ground, beating Donna’s Diamond by 8 lengths. He was a decent novice but ran extremely poorly behind Summerville Boy in the Relkeel Hurdle here in January. The Worlds End beat L’Ami Serge in a weak renewal of the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot and both horses have been well beaten since.
Of the remainder, West Approach has shown a high level of form in the past but may have lost a bit of speed since a spell over fences. Ask Dillon is a good handicapper but needs to find massive improvement. Bacardys was impressive at Navan in November but ran a long way below that form at Leopardstown.
City Island is an interesting contender from the Martin Brassil stable. He defeated Champ to win the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle last year in soft ground. His trainer believes the horse is much better on a faster surface and is hoping that the course dries out during the week.
City Island was sent chasing this season but has struggled twice in soft going. After being pulled up at Leopardstown in December he finished a remote second to Carefully Selected at Punchestown. Brassil has decided a switch back to hurdles is well worth a try in a less than vintage year for staying hurdlers. There could be some each-way value in the 14-1 offered by William Hill.