Stayers’ Hurdle preview: No looking past Paisley Park to retain Cheltenham crownPublished on: March 10, 2020Author: Jamie Clark
One of the feature races on day three of the Cheltenham Festival this Thursday is the 3m Grade 1 Stayers’ Hurdle (15:30) won last year by Paisley Park.
Emma Lavelle’s stable star looks like a banker and impossible to oppose.
The Andrew Gemmell owned eight-year-old is unbeaten in two years and took his form to a whole new level last season.
After landing handicaps off top weight at Aintree and Haydock, Paisley Park proved himself at Grade 1 level by completing the hat-trick in the Long Walk at Ascot.
He then completed a four-timer by routing West Approach despite a penalty in the Cleeve Hurdle on Festival Trials Day.
There was just two lengths between the pair at Ascot, but that widened to a dozen despite being worse off at the weights.
Paisley Park rounded off an undefeated season with victory in this 12 months ago when overcoming a mistake at the last and drawing clear of Sam Spinner close home.
His winning sequence extended to six on reappearance in the Grade 2 Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury.
Again running under a penalty, Paisley Park was a length too good for popular veteran Thistlecrack, who won this in 2016 when it was still known as the World Hurdle.
Although the Oscar gelding swerved bottomless ground and a defence of his Long Walk crown at Ascot in December, he looked as good as ever when repeating in the Cleeve last time out.
He had too much stamina for the front-running Summerville Boy. Paisley Park has beaten almost every Stayers’ Hurdle rival on his side of the Irish Sea.
With questions hanging over the Emerald Isle raiders here, he is a worthy if short-price 4/6 favourite with Coral to retain his crown off top rating of 169.
Summerville Boy the pick of George pair
No horse in the 15-runner field has got as close as the aforementioned Summerville Boy.
One of two in the race trained by Tom George, he is preferred to The Worlds End who has been lucky and well-placed by their handler.
Summerville Boy is best known for winning the Grade 1 Tolworth at Sandown and Supreme Novices’ Hurdle here in 2018. He relished the soft surface and best Kalashnikov on both occasions.
The Roger Brookhouse owned eight-year-old found open company over hurdles too hot last season.
Summerville Boy resumed winning ways when landing a beginners’ chase at Uttoxeter on reappearance this term, however, before falling in a Grade 1 at Sandown.
Connections decided to switch the son of Sandmason back to the smaller obstacles.
It proved a shrewd move, as Summerville Boy made all and beat last year’s Mares’ Hurdle heroine Roksana by 2 1/4 lengths in the Grade 2 Relkeel Hurdle here.
But for mistakes at the penultimate and final flights, he also could have given Paisley Park more of a race in the Cleeve last time out.
Summerville Boy is rated some 13lb inferior to the Stayers’ Hurdle favourite here, but shaped like a far better horse than that.
He is unexposed over the trip and has obvious claims of hitting the frame.
Summerville Boy is one to consider each-way at 17/2 with William Hill for this, or in the without Paisley Park betting.
Stable companion The Worlds End has a poor record at Cheltenham. Although he won a 3m novice chase here last season, the nine-year-old is zero from three over course and distance.
Despite winning two of his four starts this season including the Long Walk, the form is devalued by Paisley Park’s withdrawal. The Worlds End is thus one to oppose here.
Unexposed Emitom of interest in Stayers’ Hurdle
Lambourn trainer Warren Greatrex won this in 2015 courtesy of Cole Harden, so the ante post gamble on Emitom cannot be ignored.
This six-year-old was highly progressive in winning his first four starts last season.
Although they were only in minor events, Emitom was far from disgraced when pitched in at the deep end and chasing home Champ who beat him by three lengths in the Grade 1 Sefton Novices’ Hurdle during the Aintree Grand National meeting.
He finished seven lengths in front of the re-opposing Lisnagar Oscar that day, who has since been third in the Cleeve behind Paisley Park and Summerville Boy.
That display left the impression there were more races to be won with Emitom this season.
Unfortunately, he had a setback which delayed his reappearance until the Relkeel on New Year’s Day.
The son of Gold Well ran too badly to be true there when trailing in last of six and was entitled to need the run after 271 days on the sidelines.
Emitom shaped much fitter for that return to action and proved it to be all wrong last time out when landing the Grade 2 Rendlesham Hurdle at Haydock.
He drew eight lengths clear of Donna’s Diamond who had won the previous renewal. This was a big step back in the right direction with Emitom.
As the youngest horse in the Stayers’ Hurdle line-up this year, he still has the most scope to keep on progressing.
If building on his Rendlesham, there is definitely still some each-way value in odds of 10/1 with BetVictor about Emitom.
He appeals as the type who has more to offer and, with the market speaking for him, he’s another with place prospects at worst.
City Island a dark horse
Irish trainer Martin Brassil landed the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at last year’s Cheltenham Festival with City Island.
He looks like a dark horse in this now switched back to the smaller obstacles.
The seven-year-old was sent chasing this season, but over trips that were far from optimum based on the pick of his hurdles form.
Connections pitched City Island into a hot beginners event at Leopardstown over 2m at Christmas and he got pulled-up.
There were a string of errors from him. It was the wrong trip for a horse with a Grade 1 win over five furlongs further.
City Island also disappointed when last in action and chasing home Carefully Selected in a Grade 3 at Punchestown.
The Stayers’ Hurdle is uncharted territory in distance terms for the Court Cave gelding, but he shaped like the trip will be no problem.
His two-length defeat of Champ, who went on to step up and land a Grade 1, reads very well as it has thrown up a whole host of winners.
That Cheltenham Festival success 12 months ago brought up a hat-trick after wins at Leopardstown and Naas.
If this test brings the best out of him as anticipated, then City Island is no forlorn hope each-way at 14/1 with Unibet now back in this sphere.
Past Stayers’ Hurdle hero Penhill can’t be discounted from frame
Apple’s Jade and Penhill are the high-profile raiders from the Emerald Isle engaged.
While the former has had an alarming tendency to lose her form in the spring during the recent seasons, the latter is two from two over course and distance.
Trained by Willie Mullins for Brighton & Hove Albion FC owner Tony Bloom, Penhill is a nine-year-old who won the Stayers’ Hurdle in 2018 despite no prep run.
He has been difficult even for the Closutton maestro to handle with fragile fitness.
However, Mullins has got runs into Penhill this season and he placed on each of his last three starts.
After finishing an eased last in a hot renewal of the Grade 1 Hatton’s Grace Hurdle over an inadequate trip at Fairyhouse, he stripped fitter for that return to action.
Penhill badly needed the run after 584 days on the sidelines and was then far from disgraced when third to Apple’s Jade when stepped back up to 3m at Leopardstown over Christmas.
He then chased home Benie Des Dieux in the Grade 2 Galmoy Hurdle at Gowran. Although no match for the very easy winner, Penhill plugged on to be second.
The son of Mount Nelson was then a four-length runner-up to Cracking Smart in the Boyne Hurdle at Navan where he was in front of Grand National one-two Tiger Roll and Magic Of Light.
There is a chance that Penhill is building up to one last hurrah and, given he also won the 2017 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle over course and distance, this could be his seasonal target.
Mullins has won two of the last three renewals of the Stayers’ Hurdle, so knows what is required.
Penhill is another potential each-way punt at 14/1 with 888Sport in lively each-way, place and without Paisley Park markets.