Paisley Park and Santini feature among entries for a superb seven-race card on Festival Trials Day at Cheltenham on Saturday, January 25 – the final meeting at the home of jumps racing before the big one itself in March.
Emma Lavelle’s stable star Paisley Park is reported to be in rude health ahead of his bid to land the 3m Grade 2 Cleeve Hurdle (3.35) for a second time.
The Andrew Gemmell owned eight-year-old slammed the opposition in last year’s renewal before going on to land a memorable victory in the Grade 1 Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival and end the campaign unbeaten in six starts.
He looked as good as ever when making a successful return to action in the Grade 2 Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury in November and is a top priced 4/6 favourite with William Hill to land back-to-back runnings of the Cleeve Hurdle. Paisley Park is currently a 5/4 shot with Paddy Power to retain his Stayers’ Hurdle crown in March.
His handler said:
“Paisley Park is in great shape and firmly on course for Cheltenham on Saturday.
“He came out of Newbury very well and, of course after last season there was a lot of pressure for us with that race, so we were delighted with that performance.
“Not running at Ascot has ended up working out well and I am very happy. It’s on to the Cleeve on Saturday and then back to Cheltenham in March. He is in good order and I can’t wait to run him.”
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If The Cap Fits heads Cleeve Hurdle Opposition
Opposition to Paisley Park this weekend is likely to include the Harry Fry trained If The Cap Fits, a 7/2 chance with Betfred, who relished the step up to three miles on his final start last season when gamely defeating Roksana and Apple’s Jade in the Grade 1 Stayers’ Hurdle at Aintree’s Grand National Festival in April.
The eight-year-old has had just one start this season and that saw him ewfister a in a battling success over Call Me Lord to capture the Grade 2 Coral Hurdle at Ascot for the second year in succession. That victory under a penalty has left If The Cap Fits with a career-high rating of 166 – just 3lb below that of Paisley Park.
“The Cleeve Hurdle is the plan for If The Cap Fits, as long as the ground is not too testing.
“It is his first run at the track, but it will give him plenty of experience of Cheltenham before the Stayers’ Hurdle in March.
“It will be great to finally take on Paisley Park. Our horse is improving all the time and it promises to be a fascinating race.”
Santini Out to Book Gold Cup ticket in Cotswold Chase
A very informative renewal of the 3m 1f Grade 2 Paddy Power Cotswold Chase (2.25) looks likely with several Cheltenham Gold Cup contenders among the nine entries. Dual Betfair Chase winner Bristol De Mai, trained locally by Nigel Twiston-Davies, is set to clash with Nicky Henderson’s highly-touted
Santini. Santni ran a stormer wehn runner-up in a strong renewal of the Grade 1 RSA Novices’ Chase at last year’s Cheltenham Festival and made a successful return at Sandown Park in November when scrambling home by a neck from Now McGinty.
He is 5/4 favourite with sponsor Paddy Power and the Cotswold will tell us if this lightly-raced eight-year=old is a genuine Gold Cup contender. Paisley Park handler Lavelle is hopeful that De Rasher Counter, 7/1 with Paddy Power, can make his kmakr in Grade 2 company after a strong staying victory in the Grade 3 Ladbrokes Trophy Handicap Chase at Newbury in November.
“De Rasher Counter is very well and he heads for the Cotswold Chase. We were delighted with his performance in the Ladbrokes Trophy, but Saturday is another step up. This race is going to be key in determining whether he is a legitimate Gold Cup contender, so we need to see how he gets on this weekend.
“He worked well the other day, he stays well and is a good jumper. We are looking forward to seeing how he gets on.”
The Gordon Elliott trained Delta Work, third in last year’s RSA and a winner last time out in the Grade 1 Savills Chase, looks the pick of three Irish-trained entries. Colin Tixxard’s Grade 1 winning novice Slate House and Phil Kirby’s Top Ville Ben, successful last time out in a Grade 3 at Wetherby, are also engaged.