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Next stop Cheltenham: Paisley Park to miss rearranged Cleeve Hurdle at Wetherby

Rescheduled Cotswold Chase could make up all-chase card at Sandown

Paisley Park: winner of the Stayers' Hurdle in 2019 will now head straight to Cheltenham
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The Cleeve Hurdle is to be rescheduled for Wetherby on Saturday but it will not feature the staying division's star name Paisley Park, with Emma Lavelle confirming he will go straight to the Stayers' Hurdle without a prep run.

Paisley Park was an odds-on shot for Cheltenham's Grade 2 contest last Saturday – he was going for a third successive win – before the meeting was called off due to rain.

And his trainer confirmed on Monday he would not be among the entries to defend his title at the new venue due to likely testing ground on Saturday and having to endure a long journey from his Wiltshire base to Yorkshire.

A joint decision was made on Monday morning between Lavelle, husband and assistant Barry Fenton, jockey Aidan Coleman and Andrew Gemmell, Paisley Park's owner, to instead go straight to the festival. 

He will have a racecourse gallop beforehand to prime him for the Stayers' Hurdle – a race he memorably won in 2019 and for which he is a general 3-1 favourite.

"We won't take him to Wetherby," said Lavelle. "I don't want to go all the way up there and run on what can be bottomless ground. We won't go, it's not a starter for us.

"We had a chat about whether to enter him this morning with Andrew, Barry and Aidan and it was a very easy decision to make. 

"I'd say the Rendlesham will come too late and based on Wetherby being the place [for the Cleeve] I think we'll just have a racecourse gallop before Cheltenham. We'll go and do that instead."

She added: "As far as his preparation for Cheltenham is concerned I don't think it'll make any difference at all. It's just a shame the weather has been as it has. He's in unbelievable order at the minute so it's just disappointing – but it's not the end of the world." 

The Cotswold Chase is another race to be rescheduled with Sandown picking up the Grade 2 contest – and talks ongoing as to whether the meeting will be changed to an all-chase card with waterlogging on the hurdles track.

There is standing water in patches on the home straight of the hurdles course, while the chase course is in significantly better shape. An inspection will be held at 12pm on Tuesday, which will be focused on conditions on the hurdles track.

A potential Saturday switch would be in order to give the track a better chance of avoiding a cancellation, with more rain forecast throughout the week.

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Nigel Twiston-Davies confirmed he plans to run Bristol De Mai, the Cotswold Chase favourite before the abandonment, while the Tizzards are looking forward to seeing how Native River gets on at Sandown.

Joe Tizzard, assistant and son to trainer Colin, said: "I've put him in already. He's not been there before but the track will be fine for him – we're definitely planning on running him. He'll be our only one as Lostintranslation will go to either the Denman or Ascot Chase. It's brilliant they've rearranged it."

Santini was another high-profile name in the original Cotswold Chase line-up and will be among the entries, which close on Tuesday at 12pm.

Trainer Nicky Henderson said: "He'll be entered for the race and that's the plan. He's won there before and he'll be our only one in there. We won't run Champ, he'll be going to Newbury." 

Just four races on Sandown's card are run over fences – including the featuring Grade 1 Virgin Bet Scilly Isles Novices' Chase (2.20) – so course officials are looking to add three more races to the meeting. And with ITV coverage already sealed, the course wants to find races that warrant terrestrial TV coverage.

Before the Cotswold Chase move was confirmed, clerk of the course Andrew Cooper said: "It's better for us to get some racing on than none and we're giving thought to having an all-chase card.

"We've done it with this card in the past and it's an option but no decision will be taken for at least 24 hours. We want to give the hurdle course every chance but this is a possibility, for sure.

"We're in discussions with the BHA. If we did go down the route we'd need to find three additional steeplechases, at least, and a couple that merit ITV coverage – which the Cotswold Chase is.

"We've got to be realistic, our best means of assisting will be on the steeplechase front."

The going on the chase course is soft, heavy in places, and the hurdles track is heavy, soft in places, with some waterlogging on the home straight.

Ten entries were made for the Grade 1 Virgin Bet Scilly Isles Novices' Chase on Saturday including the Dan Skelton-trained Shan Blue, who is going for a second win at the top level.

Shan Blue won the Kauto Star Novices' Chase on his last start

The seven-year-old, winner of the Kauto Star Novices' Chase, could take on Dipper winner Messire Des Obeaux, Sporting John and Hitman, second in the Henry VIII at this venue last time.

Last season's Coral Cup winner Dame De Compagnie made a winning start over fences at Ayr last month and is one of two in the race for Nicky Henderson, along with Allart.

Kiltealy Briggs, Lieutenant Rocco, Paint The Dream and Up The Straight also feature.

Saturday's racecards

If the hurdle races do go ahead, Goshen and Song For Someone could put their Champion Hurdle credentials to the test in the Virgin Bet Contenders Hurdle (1.50).

At Wetherby, The Big Breakaway, Sevarano and the aforementioned Dame De Compagnie are among the high-profile names entered in the William Hill Towton Novices' Chase (2.35).

The going at the Yorkshire track is heavy, soft in places, and clerk of the course Jonjo Sanderson is confident further rain will not disrupt Saturday's card.

He said: "Knowing the drainage and the land around Wetherby, Tuesday’s precipitation will go through the system pretty quickly. It looks like we might get rain again Friday night into Saturday but they’re talking about 5-10mm so I should imagine we’ll be heavy all round but we would be raceable.

"It'll be winter ground but probably better for the rain because otherwise Wetherby can get tacky and gluey."

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I don't want to go all the way up there and run on what can be bottomless ground. We won't go, it's not a starter for us
E.W. Terms