Favourites In Focus – Paisley Park

Paisley Park and Aidan Coleman win the Stayers' Hurdle at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival

Emma Lavelle’s Paisley Park progressed rapidly through the staying division last year, ending the season with victory at the Cheltenham Festival.

Rated just 140 last October, he returns to action in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury for which he is a short priced favourite. The seven-year-old faces the last four winners of the race. He’ll bid to emulate Big Buck’s who used this race as a stepping stone to glory in the Stayers’ Hurdle in March.

Two legends of the game in Thistlecrack and Unowhatimeanharry line up. The other two rivals are two eight-year-olds in the form of The Worlds End and Beer Goggles who have upwards of a stone to find with him.

Here’s the lowdown on the favourite’s seasonal reappearance. Be sure to make use of all our tips and analysis for the two day’s racing on ITV from Newbury and Newcastle, as well as a Grade One spectacular from Fairyhouse.



The going as of time of writing is soft. Paisley Park started the 2018-19 with two handicap victories on good ground but proved his versatility with a win on soft at Ascot in Grade One company in December.

He took his form to a new level on good-to-soft when winning twice at Cheltenham earlier this year. That was more a result of his upwardly mobile profile however, and less that he favours a quicker surface. Such is his class, he could win on any going, so it’s of no concern whatsoever.


The son of Oscar has raced fresh three times in his career. Second on debut in a bumper, he beat the useful Vision Des Flos on his hurdling berth after a near year long absence.  He again scored on his seasonal return last year, when landing an Aintree handicap in October after 226 days off the track.

Trainer Emma Lavelle has expressed some misgivings about his fitness prior to the race. To counteract that, he’s been given two racecourse gallops at Newbury, which will put him close to spot on. In truth, he could be a little off his game and still have enough to beat the four rivals. That combined with the two spins at the track mean he should have enough to prevail.


No concern here given that he won all four starts over three-miles last season, including when winning the Stayers’ Hurdle.

The sole foreseeable issue is the small field and the potential lack of pace. His run style suggests he does his best work when held up and coming from off the pace in a strongly run contest.

A dash for the line alongside some race fit rivals and Thistlecrack wouldn’t be ideal, so it’s fair to have some misgivings. As previously mentioned however, he’s in a different league to today’s rivals, so it’d be a surprise were he not good enough to cope with whatever the race throws at him.


Beer Goggles

A massive improver for Richard Woollacott back in 2016 and 2017, he sprung a 40/1 surprise in this race two years back. He made all with an impressive round of jumping to beat the best of Britain’s best staying hurdlers, including previous winners Thistlecrack and Unowhatimeanharry.

The gelding has raced just once since, an underwhelming fifth in the 2018 Cleeve Hurdle. He returns to action after a 671-day lay off for a new stable. Entitled to need the run and rated nineteen-pounds below Paisley Park, he’s an unlikely repeat victor.

The Worlds End

A very talented novice hurdler in 2016-17, he found life tougher in open company the following year when none-from-five. His progress once again came unstuck as a novice chaser last year, winning two of his first three before being outclassed in Grade Ones. He subsequently struggled in the Aintree Stayers’ Hurdle in April.

He returned from a summer break with as good an effort as ever however, making all at Wetherby to land a Grade Two. Unowhatimeanharry was five-lengths back in second, with the well-backed favourite Ballyandy back in fourth.

This is a considerably tougher test of his credentials however. He’s six pounds worse off with the second and even with the handicapper pushing his mark up to 153, he still has over a stone to find with Paisley Park.


A five-times Grade One winner who needs little introduction. A winner of this race in 2015, he showed there was still life in him when finishing second in last year’s King George. He comes into the race rated just two pounds lower than Paisley Park and receives six from him. On paper he has a cracking chance then.

He was 11/10 for the 2017 renewal when a disappointing fifth behind Beer Goggles, his latest run over hurdles since 2016. Connections used that race as a prep for the King George in which he eventually finished fourth, and a similar path looks likely this year.

Far from foot-perfect in three runs over fences last year, he could appreciate a return to hurdling on the jumping side of things. Rising twelve however, he’s likely to be short of the level of pace he showed when at his best, and is more than entitled to step forward from this fitness wise.


Harry Fry’s veteran has won this twice, justifying favouritism last year. He subsequently raced twice against Paisley Park, falling at Ascot in December before finishing a distant eighth in the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham.

That inconsistency has been a feature of his more recent career, finishing down the field at Aintree before landing the Stayers’ at Punchestown a month later.

He was no match for the front-running The Worlds End at Wetherby earlier this month. On today’s six pound better off terms and now race fit, he can reverse the form. Barry Geraghty’s mount will need a clear career best to mix it with an on-song Paisley Park however, something that looks unlikely given his age and relatively exposed profile.


It’s hard to see past Paisley Park, last year’s stayer par excellence who is already as short as 2/1 for his defence of the Stayers’ Hurdle crown.

Both Unowhatimeanharry and Thistlecrack have been high-class staying hurdlers in their own rights. A fully firing Thistlecrack a couple of seasons ago would be more than a match for Paisley Park and his second in the King George in December was a career best over fences.

He’s far from a spent force in the game, but given that this is likely to be a prep run for the Kempton showpiece, preference cannot lie with him.

The Worlds End arrives here on the back of an impressive win, but he’s far from sure to back that performance up and still has plenty to find with the favourite.

Beer Goggles wasn’t given a hope in the 2017 renewal and despite his victory there, it’s best to pass him over this time around. He faces a different level of opponent today and a near two-year long absence would be a concern for any contender.

Please Gamble Responsibly