Long Walk Hurdle Tips: Paisley set for stroll in the Park

Paisely Park is the red hot favourite for the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot this weekend
Paisely Park is the red hot favourite for the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot this weekend

The festive period is always a special stop on the road to the Cheltenham Festival, and it kicks off this weekend with a terrific card at Ascot on Saturday afternoon.

The big races are going to be coming thick and fast over the next 10 days, which is fantastic for fans of the great game. Many hours are likely to be spent slumped on the couch with a turkey sandwich in one hand and a copy of the Racing Post in the other (alternative racing publications are available).

The action kicks off at the Berkshire venue with the Marsh Hurdle (the Long Walk) the feature race of the day, and it should be an early present as we get to see one of the stars of the sport looking to extend an impressive winning run. Paisley Park has dominated the staying hurdling division over the past 12 months, and most believe that he is on another relentless march towards a second Cheltenham win in March.

He asserted his position at the top of the division by winning on reappearance at Newbury last month, gamely defeating a rejuvenated Thistlecrack in the process, and connections will be hoping he can take another step forward this weekend as he looks to win the Grade One Long Walk Hurdle for the second year on the bounce.

The Emma Lavelle-trained horse has shown no weakness in recent times, with his Stayers' Hurdle win at the Cheltenham Festival still fresh in the minds of racing punters as they study the form ahead of this one. 

Paisley Park is not going to be a working man's price this weekend, but it is difficult to find a way he can be beaten given the stark lack of depth in a division which does tend to be dominated by one horse. The likes of Baracouda, Inglis Drever and Big Buck's are just legends to have made themselves stars in races like the Long Walk since the turn of the century, and most onlookers expect Paisley Park to be the next horse on that illustrious list of staying hurdling greats.

Punters looking for the most likely horse to chase home the favourite at Ascot this weekend do have one or two options, though, for all that a small field is expected.

A total of six contenders were engaged at the five-day stage, which speaks to both the quality of Paisley Park - who has likely scared off a number of opponents - and the aforementioned lack of quality in a division, which is looking sparse on both sides of the Irish Sea.

The defection of If The Cap Fits is a disappointing one, and of the remaining challengers, there are three horses with just over a stone to find with Paisley Park, in the form The Worlds End, Tobefair and L'Ami Serge, who are all decent animals in their own right but are unlikely to challenge the market leader. The Worlds End chased home Paisley Park and Thistlecrack in third at Newbury last month, and of the three he is perhaps most likely to finish second here. Admittedly, things never quite went to plan for him over fences, but he seems back on track over the smaller obstacles - and it's worth remembering that he was a Grade 1-winning novice back in 2017.

In truth though, this is all about Paisley Park as we get to run the rule over what many consider to be the Cheltenham Races banker for 2020.

The defending Stayers' Hurdle king has proven himself to be head and shoulders above his peers of late, and with this race at Ascot unlikely to provide much of a test, it should be used as information gathering ahead of March. Barring an injury or a fall, Emma Lavelle will be leading her stable-star back into the winners' enclosure at Ascot and then attention will quickly turn to Prestbury Park.

Connections will be considering a tilt at the Cleeve Hurdle on Festival Trials Day at the back end of January before the big one in the spring and few would surely be brave enough betting against one of the best animals in the sport completing the campaign with an unblemished record. This isn't going to make punters rich but sometimes we have to call a spade, a spade and that means we can go and watch Paisley Park win with his head in his chest.

Long Walk Hurdle
Paisley Park silk

Paisley Park

Non-Runner
Today's Racecards
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