Jumps Eye-Catchers: Paisley gets back in the groove at Newbury

Paisley Park (right) impressed on his return to action at Newbury on Friday.
Paisley Park (right) impressed on his return to action at Newbury on Friday.

Paisley Park  - Emma Lavelle (Newbury 15:00, Friday)

Newbury hosted it’s Winter Carnival this weekend, and Friday’s feature was the Grade 2 Long Distance Hurdle, which regularly acts as a starting point for some of the key players in the staying hurdling division. That proved to be the case this year, and a stellar 10-strong field included last season’s shock Stayers’ Hurdle winner Lisnagar Oscar, the 2018 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner Summerville Boy and two graduating novices in McFabulous and Thyme Hill. The last-named built on a fine novice campaign by making a winning reappearance in good style here, and while he’s open to more improvement yet after just five starts over hurdles, the horse to take out of this looked to be the 2018 Stayers’ Hurdle winner, Paisley Park.

The eight-year-old was the undisputed king of the division before suffering a shock defeat at the Festival in March, and bearing in mind that he was reported to have suffered from some heart problems that day, he shaped perfectly well on his first start since, looking as though he was just short of fitness in the closing stages. The lack of an early pace didn’t seem to suit Paisley Park, and a stronger test of stamina will certainly see him to better effect, but any doubts about whether he would be able to rediscover his old form were but to bed here, and he should come on plenty for this run next time out. Paisley Park is the clear one to beat in this division when running to his best, and with that in mind, the 11/2 that’s currently on offer for the Stayers’ Hurdle looks particularly generous. Indeed, he won’t be trading at anywhere near that price if he shows the expected improvement on his next start - which is likely to be next month’s Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot - and he’s fancied to regain control of this division sooner rather than later.

Stayers' Hurdle
Paisley Park silk

Paisley Park

Whatmore - Henry Daly (Newcastle 15:15, Saturday)

The story of this year's Rehearsal Chase was undoubtedly the unexpected return to form of the two-time Cheltenham Festival winner and professional rogue Yorkhill at 66/1, though there was plenty to like about Whatmore's effort to finish one and three quarter lengths behind him in second for the Henry Daly team. He showed some useful form without winning as a novice last winter, finishing fourth in the now defunct Novices' Handicap Chase at the Festival, and he looked better the further he went on Saturday, generally jumping well and staying on all the way to the line.

He could well have gotten closer to Yorkhill had he have been able to avoid trouble down the back straight second time around (when the winner was able to steal a few lengths on the field), but he certainly looks a more polished model this season, and is worth trying over further on this evidence. His current mark of 142 looks a fair one provided he isn't punished too severely for this, and it isn't difficult to see him winning a valuable staying handicap over fences this season - with the Eider Chase very much springing to mind as a good target at this track in February. 

N'Golo  - Willie Mullins (Fairyhouse 13:05, Sunday)

Some of our more regular followers may notice that this is the second time that N'Golo's name has appeared in this series this season, and he once again caught the eye with his effort to finish third on his first try in Grade 1 company, in Sunday's Royal Bond Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse. He was entitled to take his chance here after winning a Grade 3 event over this trip at Navan earlier in November, and although he ran with plenty of credit to get within two lengths of the impressive Ballyadam, he shaped as though this trip was on the sharp side for him, looking a little tapped for toe as the race set alight, before staying on well to the line after the final flight.

He looks worth trying over further on his next start - perhaps in the Grade 1 Lawlor's of Naas over two and a half miles in January - and with that in mind, he continues to appeal as a good bet for next year's Ballymore Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. Tipped up at 33/1 in this article at the beginning of November, he's now as short as 14/1 in places, and would be a leading player for that if improving for the step up in trip as expected. 

Ballymore Novices' Hurdle
N'golo silk

N'golo (EW)

2021 Cheltenham Gold Cup
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