Lavelle holds Paisley Park hope

Cheltenham Festival: Mullins has high hopes for Appreciate It

Emma Lavelle is keeping her fingers crossed that Paisley Park (15/2) can land a second win in what looks set to be a highly competitive Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival on Thursday.

Paisley Park was an impressive winner of the Grade One feature in 2019, but could only finish seventh behind Lisnagar Oscar when sent off the 4/6 favourite the following year, while he came in third to Flooring Porter 12 months ago.

That had led to suggestions that the 10-year-old was a spent force, but he proved those doubters wrong by recovering from a typically slow start to win the Cleeve Hurdle over the same course and distance in January.

Trainer Lavelle certainly appears quietly confident that the son of Oscar can once again deliver at Prestbury Park.

“He’s been exactly where we want him to be and he’s done everything right at home, so we’re just keeping our fingers crossed,” Lavelle told reporters, as per Racing TV.

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Flooring Porter (4/1) also appears to be in good shape, as he bids to become the first horse since Big Buck’s to successfully defend the title, while Lisnagar Oscar (28/1) is another one of the previous winners set to contend.

Philip Hobbs will be keen to see Thyme Hill (9/2) make up for lost time after he was forced to miss last year’s renewal with a muscle issue.

The eight-year-old underlined his credentials with a victory in the Liverpool Hurdle at Aintree four weeks after the 2021 Festival and he has been lightly raced so far this season with the Stayers’ Hurdle in mind.

Nicky Henderson will be hoping Champ (5/1) can enjoy better luck after the 2020 RSA Chase winner was switched back to hurdles following an underwhelming showing in last year’s Gold Cup.

Klassical Dream (4/1) could also contend for Willie Mullins, especially if he can replicate the form that saw him finish two-lengths clear of Flooring Porter to land the Grade One Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown over the festive period.

Royal Kahala (11/2), who beat Klassical Dream in the Galmoy Hurdle at Gowran Park in January, could also feature prominently for Peter Fahey, while the field is completed by Tom Symonds’ Song For Someone (33/1), Koshari (66/1) from David Christie’s yard and the Joseph O’Brien-trained Home By The Lee (33/1).

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