Jockey Aidan Coleman and trainer Emma Lavelle are on the cusp of a first major Cheltenham Festival win with one of the Cheltenham betting's strongest favourites.
Paisley Park has improved beyond belief from his distant Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle finish, to landing two of the most important Stayers' Hurdle trials, including the Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot.
He's won by 12 lengths at Cheltenham too, and lines up with a lofty rating of 156 as his jockey and trainer keep their fingers crossed for that covetted Cheltenham Festival Grade 1 win.
His key rivals, though talented, have either been repeatedly beaten by him, or failed to win this season, leaving huge question marks over the likes of former Champion Hurdle winner Faugheen, uber-consisted Supasundae, and last year's favourite Sam Spinner.
The Stayers' Hurdle is a 3m Grade 1 hurdle race considered the championship event for stamina-laden hurdlers. Worth £182,877 to the winning connections, it is Thursday's feature race at the Cheltenham Festival.
15.30 Thursday, March 14 - LIVE ON: ITV Racing, RTE Racing, Racing TV
If anyone can convince Nicky Henderson to switch Top Notch from the Ryanair Chase to the Stayers' Hurdle, then this betting tips section will end here.
Unfortunately, he seems set on that route, leaving us with a shortlist of Paisley Park, Faugheen, Supasundae, and West Approach, the foursome fitting the Stayers' Hurdle trends surprisingly well.
Paisley Park (7/4 Betfair) is the undisputed favourite, wiping the floor with everything Britain has to offer on the staying hurdle front, particularly West Approach, who has finished second to the seven-year-old on his last two outings.
Faugheen comes out second on the trends, his age, and his last-run fall, the only black marks against an otherwise almost immaculate record. The form of his victory over 2018 Stayers' Hurdle winner Penhill at Punchestown last April puts him in a different league to Paisley Park, and jockey Ruby Walsh felt he had been asked no questions before that late fall at Leopardstown.
If he had beaten Apple's Jade that day, he would be ahead of Paisley Park in the odds right now, so 9/2 with Betway looks a good bet, for a result that would bring the house down. Don't forget, he's a Ballymore Novices' Hurdle winner.
Supasundae is the toughest, most solid horse in the race and has to be placed yet again, but at 5/1, he's not the best each-way bet in this field. Were Faugheen's stablemate Bapaume to run, he'd be a great bet at 25/1 with William Hill, but the best each-way bet is actually Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle winner Kilbricken Storm (16/1 William Hill); sure, he hasn't run over hurdles this season, but there's plenty of time in the Stayers' Hurdle to remember what to do and he was really top-class as a novice last season.
"Faugheen seems in good form. Ruby hadn’t stirred on him before he fell at Leopardstown, so what would have happened afterwards? I don’t know. Ruby was very confident that he hadn’t asked him anything at that stage.
"He was very, very sore afterwards, so I’m very happy to have him back at a stage where I can get him ready for Cheltenham because when the fall happened I thought that might be it.
"Bacardys ran very well in the Stayers' Hurdle last year, and I think he was going to be placed when he fell at the last, so he goes back again."
"He appears to be in great form. He came out of the race at Leopardstown very well and we’re on course. He’s going to go to the Curragh to do a breeze there just to get him away from home because he’s quite a stuffy horse that carries a lot of condition. At the moment he will be confirmed for the both the Unibet Champion Hurdle and the three-mile Stayers’ race. If I made a decision today probably I’d be going towards the three-mile, because the ground is good."
"The horse has done all that has been asked of him. We can do no more so we’ll hope for the best. To a point, because of our expectations any disappointment would be heightened, but we’d have to take it on the chin.”
"I thought it was a very solid run at Fontwell. It was the third time he has run in the race, and I thought it was probably the best National Spirit he has run in.
"He will go back up to three miles now for the Stayers' Hurdle, because I don't think he is quick enough for the Coral Cup. He was great after his run at Fontwell, and he looks a picture.
"Paisley Park is the horse we have to beat, but we ran quite a nice race behind him in the Cleeve. He is possibly a bit overlooked, because he has got good course form there."
"He's a bit of a forgotten horse. He’s had six weeks off and since then he’s been straightforward. He’s had a Wincanton gallop and, people can crab the form, but he won the Albert Bartlett quite easily. He backed it up at Punchestown so it wasn’t a one-off. He was good at Wincanton. We took six up there and he’s the one you’d take out of it. He’s in good form."
Paisley Park is a worth favourite, having soundly beaten everything that has taken him on this season, but what has he actually beaten? His rating of 156 tells a fuller story, as the Cleeve and Long Walk Hurdle winner is ranked about seventh on official ratings, compared to other intended runners.
There is no doubt he is the class act in Britain, and that he is a tough and durable sort, ideally suited to 3m around Cheltenham. You just wonder is he as good as the Champion Hurdle horses trying to bypass Apple's Jade and Buveur D'Air.
Faugheen too has proven himself hard as nails, coming back from injury last year to win two Grade 1s, including a 13-length beating of the reigning Cheltenham Stayers' Hurdle champion Penhill.
We will never know whether he could have beaten Apple's Jade over 3m at Leopardstown at Christmas, but the vibes from his camp are that he was going to be second at the very worst.
He has already won two Grade 1 hurdles at the Cheltenham Festival and is a warrior who will have no trouble with soft ground conditions. It must be a short price that victory on Thursday would prompt a valiant retirement for the 11-year-old.
Supasundae is among the most consistent horses in training, and also the most unlucky; in another era he might be a legendary champion, but in the past two seasons he has finished second (and once third) three times to Apple's Jade.
He's also been denied Grade 1 wins by L'Ami Serge, and Sharjah, and Cheltenham Festival victory by Penhill. If there is any horse in the field you can trust to run his heart out, it is Supasundae, and if there are cracks in Faugheen, he will win.
Really, Black Op should be running over fences at Cheltenham, but the well-documented dry ground plagueing jumps racing this winter has meant the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle second has only run twice in chases, and been beaten both times. Switching to the Stayers' Hurdle began with a distant third behind Paisley Park over course-and-distance in the Cleeve Hurdle, and it's hard to see him reversing that form.
Kilbricken Storm is having the same experience as Black Op, however, he boasts far more substantial novice hudle form. He won the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle last year, having previously won his only other start over course-and-distance in a Grade 1. Trainer Colin Tizzard desribes him as a 'forgotten horse' and he's a candidate for causing a surprise at generous odds of 16/1 with William Hill.
Be the first to receive the latest welcome offers, free bets, tips and strategy
DISCLAIMER: Online Wagering is illegal in some Jurisdictions. It is your responsibility to check your local regulations before playing online. GDC Trading Ltd takes no responsibility for your actions.
© 2011-2019 GDC Trading Limited. All Rights Reserved. Gambling.com is a registered trademark of GDC Trading Limited.
Be the first to receive the latest welcome offers, free bets, tips and strategy
Check your email to activate your subscription and start receiving our new exclusive offers.