On-song Paisley Park gunning for Cleeve Hurdle repeat after missing Ascot
Emma Lavelle is looking forward to unleashing Paisley Park at the end of the month in Cheltenham's galliardhomes.com Cleeve Hurdle, with the trainer harbouring no regrets about missing last month's Grade 1 Marsh Hurdle at Ascot.
The defending Stayers' Hurdle champion was a morning withdrawal from the race registered as the Long Walk Hurdle, with Lavelle deciding underfoot conditions would be too taxing for the eight-year-old.
Instead, Paisley Park will have a dress rehearsal for the Stayers' Hurdle in the Grade 2 Cleeve on January 25, part of Cheltenham's Festival Trials Day card.
Paisley Park, a best-priced 6-4 favourite with Betfair Sportsbook and Paddy Power to defend his stayers' title in March, won the Cleeve last year before his festival triumph, and Lavelle said on Sunday: "He's in great form and ready for action at Cheltenham. In no way do I regret missing Ascot. It was the right move for him and we're very much looking forward to the Cleeve Hurdle.
"If we'd gone to Ascot we probably wouldn't have gone to the Cleeve. He's in great order and Newbury was only three weeks before Ascot so giving him that extra time has been great. It meant we had time to get his flu vaccination out of the way and he's back flying along."
While Paisley Park had four races, and four wins, before capturing the Stayers' Hurdle last season, he will go into the festival off a lighter campaign this time.
However, Lavelle is content with how the season is playing out, with other options available to her stable star, and added: "We had our plan and it's very easy to have all these races when you're running on goodish ground or good to soft ground, which is what we had last season.
"Racing on this very soft ground takes a lot more out of the horses and so accordingly if we miss one race at this stage of the season when you're on the worst of the ground you pick up another one later on."
Testing ground was to blame for Hang In There's below-par run in Saturday's Tolworth Novices' Hurdle at Sandown, with the six-year-old well beaten by Fiddlerontheroof.
A Grade 2 winner at Cheltenham on his previous run, Hang In There was sent off the 4-1 joint-second favourite for the Tolworth, but quickly dropped away in the home straight and finished fifth of seven, beaten 41 lengths.
Lavelle said: "He's a really good-moving horse and he got away with it on soft, wet ground at Cheltenham but he didn't get away with it at Sandown.
"He travelled great through the race and jumped really well, but Aidan Coleman said as soon as he hit that deep, heavy ground, he just didn't quicken out of it all. Once the race had gone he wasn't hard on him so ultimately he hasn't had a hard race it's just a gutter as he was in such good shape going in to it.
"We might look at something like the Sidney Banks [Listed novices' hurdle on February 6] at Huntingdon on better ground and see where we are with him."
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