Lavelle keen to let Paisley show he can shine at Cheltenham in Saturday feature
Paisley Park will return to Cheltenham on Saturday with a right to wrong as he attempts to stamp himself Britain's number-one contender for the Sun Racing Stayers' Hurdle.
Paisley Park gave Emma Lavelle and Aidan Coleman the first Grade 1 victory of their careers when landing last month's Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot. A 12-1 shot for the Stayers', he is on course to test his credentials further in Saturday's Galliardhomes.com Cleeve Hurdle, in which he could meet a host of other leading domestic candidates for the long-distance festival championship.
However, if this season's hat-trick hero is to book his March ticket he needs to erase the memory of his 54-length defeat at last year's festival, an uncharacteristically tame effort his trainer believes can be explained.
Lavelle, whose seven-year-old is a best-priced 4-1 joint-favourite for the Cleeve alongside Cheltenham New Year's Day winner Midnight Shadow, said: "The plan is very much for him to go for the Cleeve and he's in great order. The timing of the race is perfect, although he wouldn't run if the ground was really testing as I don't want him to have a gruelling race before the festival.
"He's twice the horse this season and I'd like to put to bed the memory of his only previous visit to Cheltenham in last season's Albert Bartlett. I messed things up putting the visor on him and I'm not sure he was 100 per cent spot on either. It will be good to experience Cheltenham in a better frame of mind."
As well as Midnight Shadow, Paisley Park could meet Long Walk runner-up West Approach, Wholestone, Unowhatimeanharry, Black Op and Aux Ptits Soins.
The last-named of those added to his triumph in the 2015 Coral Cup when taking a Cheltenham handicap on his most recent outing. Underfoot conditions - described as good, to good to soft places on Monday - will determine his participation.
"He isn't definite to run," said trainer Dan Skelton. "I need to speak with [owner] John Hales and I'd say we'll probably want there to be the word soft in the ground description. If he doesn't run on Saturday he won't run anywhere before the festival. The only other realistic race would be the Rendlesham, but Haydock wouldn't be for him.
"Mathematically he still has a bit to find with some of the Stayers' Hurdle horses but he pleased us at Cheltenham and he has done so again at home since then, which is why he has the Stayers' entry."
We do not know if Aux Ptits Soins will line up in the Cleeve and nor do we know the likely field for the Betbright Trial Cotswold Chase, reopened until Tuesday after attracting only eight entries.
The highest-rated of those with a BHA mark of 169 is the Cheltenham-loving Frodon, while another interesting candidate is 2018 Mildmay Novices' Chase winner Terrefort, who completely failed to fire on his reappearance.
Trainer Nicky Henderson said: "Something obviously went wrong with Terrefort at Sandown, and his jumping certainly went to pieces, but when he schooled last week he was brilliant.
"I don't know yet if he is a Gold Cup horse, and I don't even know what his trip is, but that's why we're running him in this race. He is a funny horse as he shows you nothing at home, so it will be good to get him out."
Clerk of the course Simon Claisse said: "We could have rainfall of up to 8mm between now and racing with maybe a bit of sleet as well. I think that would push us to predominantly good to soft ground."
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