Cheltenham Festival News

Paisley Park to bypass re-scheduled Cleeve Hurdle and head straight to Cheltenham

Tue 2 Feb 2021

Paisley Park will straight head to the Cheltenham Festival after trainer Emma Lavelle decided to miss the re-scheduled Cleeve Hurdle at Wetherby with her stable star.

The Marlborough trainer has not entered the nine-year-old this weekend, preferring a racecourse gallop as preparation rather than running on very testing ground just six weeks before he bids to reclaim his Stayers’ Hurdle crown.

“On balancing up on what makes sense and what doesn’t, I just don’t think it makes sense to go up there and run on what will be incredibly testing ground,” said Lavelle.

“Don’t get me wrong – it wasn’t as though Cheltenham wasn’t going to be testing (before it was abandoned last Saturday), but there were other reasons for wanting to go to Cheltenham.

“It would have been experience back there, having had his heart fibrillation (after last year’s Stayers Hurdle).

“We said if it was on we’d go (to Cheltenham). We’d have gone to Wincanton (if the race had been re-scheduled there on Thursday), but it was dubious if that was going to be on.”

Paisley Park will therefore head back to Cheltenham after just two runs this season, as runner-up in Newbury’s Long Distance Hurdle and then winner of Ascot’s Long Walk just before Christmas.

“We had a good discussion about it, and we all think it was the right decision to make,” added Lavelle.

“We’ll take him for a racecourse gallop somewhere to make him feel like he’s been to the races.

“It’s just frustrating. He’s mature, and we want to be going to the races with him, but there’s also a balance about going to the races with him and not bottoming him at this stage.

“What I think it will mean is it will extend our (options) hopefully the other end. I would hope we would then go on to Punchestown, Aintree or whatever.”

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