Paisley Park team set to aim for Long Walk Hurdle

Horse Racing

Third win in Ascot feature on the agenda.

Paisley Park may be kept over hurdles for the foreseeable future, according to owner Andrew Gemmell.

The then-seven-year-old gave trainer Emma Lavelle the biggest win of her career to date when landing the 2019 Stayers’ Hurdle.

And while Lavelle was considering the possibility of going chasing with the nine-year-old following Saturday’s Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury, where he finished 11 lengths third to Thomas Darby, connections are hopeful he may still have the ability to run over the smaller obstacles at the Cheltenham Festival.

Gemmell says Paisley Park is on course for the Howden Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot on December 18 and plans for a chasing debut are, for the time being, on hold.

He said: “Ascot is definitely in my thoughts, as he has won two of the last three Long Walk Hurdles and the only one he didn’t win was the one in 2019, where we pulled him out on the day because the ground was unsuitable.

“I think we have to go to Ascot and, in retrospect, we are not too disappointed with the run at Newbury.

“I know we made the pace, but the race didn’t fall the way we wanted it to.

“The ground was definitely quicker than we thought and I think he definitely needs softer ground than he got.

“The Long Walk may have a bigger field, there will be a truer pace and we have nothing to lose by going to Ascot now.

“We feel that he has run there twice, won there twice and so I think we have to go.”

Owner Andrew Gemmell celebrates Paisley Park's 2019 Stayers' Hurdle success
Owner Andrew Gemmell celebrates Paisley Park’s 2019 Stayers’ Hurdle success (Andrew Mathews/PA)

Though Paisley Park has won nine of his 18 starts over hurdles, he has not won since taking the Long Walk Hurdle last December and the owner feels that after victory at Ascot, things did not go according to plan.

While admitting plans remain fluid, despite Lavelle being keen to send Paisley Park chasing, Gemmell feels the lack of rain is somewhat forcing the Ogbourne Maizey handler’s hand.

He explained: “Certainly, with the idea about going chasing, with the ground the way it has been, being so firm, we haven’t had any opportunity to school, so that is on the back burner at the moment.

“If he runs relatively well, we will stay as we are. I think the Stayers’ Hurdle has to be the aim.

“Last year, I don’t think we were helped by the fact that the Cleeve Hurdle was cancelled and I think we were short of a run when we got to Cheltenham, and Aintree was totally unsuitable, as it came too soon after the Stayers’ and he was pulled up.

“In retrospect, we probably shouldn’t have gone to Aintree for the Liverpool Hurdle, but that’s the way it is.

“He seemed well in himself at the time and it was the only time he has really run like that. They are not machines after all.”

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