Young pretender Call Me Lord is priced to upset the big guns in Saturday’s Long Walk Hurdle betting, as the best staying hurdlers in the land prepare for their first battle.
Ascot’s Grade 1 is the first hurdle of that calibre over 3m this season, allowing a first clash for those heading for the Cheltenham Festival’s Stayers Hurdle in March.
Previous winners Uknowhatimeanharry and Sam Spinner are set to challenge Call Me Lord, the 11/4 favourite with Unibet who represents the powerful Nicky Henderson stable.
The Long Walk Hurdle is a Grade 1 staying hurdle run over 3m 1/2 f at Ascot. It was first held in 1971 and has been won by some of the greatest staying hurdlers of all-time, like Baracouda and Reve De Sivola.
The race has also been a stepping stone to greater things for chasers, with 1995 Grand National winner Royal Athlete winning the Long Walk Hurdle six years before his Aintree victory, and Thistlecrack winning it in 2015, just over 12 months before he won the King George VI Chase at Kempton.
While Call Me Lord (11/4 Unibet) impressed when upped in distance to 2m5f for a Grade 2 victory at Sandown last April, he has yet to prove he stays the Long Walk Hurdle distance so it is worth looking elsewhere for the winner of this event.
Chief among his rivals is the 2016 winner Uknowhatimeanharry (4/1 Betway) who ended that season with another win at the highest level in a 3m hurdle on yielding-to-soft going at Punchestown.
The 10-year-old was running below that level for much of last season, including when third in this Grade 1, having been sent off favourite, but he appears to have benefited from wind surgery during the summer and is improving with racing this time around.
Harry Fry’s charge has won over 2m4f in the past, but it's likely that he found that trip to be on the sharp side when finishing third on good ground over it at Aintree in a conditions hurdle on seasonal debut in November. The ground that day was probably quicker than ideal too.
Given the way he ran, having been off the bridle from an early stage, prior to staying on, it is easy to see why cheekpieces were applied for the first time at Newbury next time out. He was sent off favourite once more and made no mistakes upped to 3m, running out the two-and-a-half-length winner of a Grade 2 on soft ground.
Last year's winner Sam Spinner (8/1 Coral) didn’t look the horse he was for much of last season at Newbury behind Uknowhatimeanharry. Jedd O’Keefe’s charge was weakening when unseating Joe Colliver after three out.
The previous year's winner is often a good place to start with these conditions races, but I would have liked to have seen more from Sam Spinner that day. Even accounting for it being his seasonal debut, it wasn't enough, particularly given the good show he’d put on during his seasonal reappearance at Chepstow last season.
Paisley Park (15/2 Unibet) comes into the Long Walk Hurdle with a similar profile to the one boasted by Sam Spinner last year, in that he’s an improving youngster, stepping out of handicaps and into Grade 1 company.
On his most recent outing, Paisley Park won a Grade 3 handicap over an extended 3m at Haydock. That was in November on good ground and happens to be the same hurdle Sam Spinner won before winning the Long Walk Hurdle last year.
The six-year-old ran to a decent level as a novice last season and appears to have really benefitted from the summer break. He disappointed over 3m on soft ground in a visor at the Cheltenham Festival, but it’s possible he resented the application of headgear that day and he has looked an improved performer in two starts since - winning both.
There are three places available on the each-way market, so it's worth taking a gambling on Paisley Park being the one to improve here, and he's got decent odds of 15/2 in the Long Walk Hurdle betting.
>> Back Paisley Park Each-Way at 15/2 with Unibet
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