The Haydock Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle went the way of Sam Spinner in 2017 and Paisley Park in 2018. On Saturday, we witnessed another potential star in Stoney Mountain land the Grade Three event.
The son of Mountain High didn’t romp home in the style of Sam Spinner, but there were similarities with the subsequent Cheltenham Stayers’ Hurdle winner Paisley Park. Delving beyond that race, there’s plenty of further comparisons to draw between the two.
Emma Lavelle’s stable star will be returning to action in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury on Friday on their Ladbrokes Trophy weekend. We’ll have tips and analysis for this race and the rest of the action throughout the week.
The pair were both slightly neglected in the market, Stoney Mountain sent off 16/1 and Paisley Park 4/1, less fancied than the 11/10 shot First Assignment.
Tom O’Brien and Aidan Coleman both held their mounts off the pace, leaving them both with plenty to do jumping the final obstacle. Paisley Park had two runaway leaders to reel in and Stoney Mountain was six-lengths off the pace, behind four rivals.
Whilst the long-time leaders both fought each other, they were to be picked off by a fast finishing rival. This year’s winner scored with three-lengths to spare whereas Paisley Park only just got his head in front in the dying strides.
The way in which they both stayed on strongly under pressure from their jockeys is very similar, and suggested that both would have even more to offer granted a stronger pace, as Paisley Park was to prove in Grade One events subsequently.
The pair both took in the same Class Two handicap on their seasonal reappearances at Aintree prior to scoring at Haydock. Stoney Mountain cruised through to take the lead before the eventual third put him under pressure. He showed a game attitude to repel that rival and another on the run-in, staying on strongly under a powerful Richard Johnson ride.
Paisley Park similarly carried a big weight to victory in the contest, also displaying a great attitude having been eye-balled on the home stretch.
Remarkably, the pair both finished second in the same Grade Two at Warwick in January, the Ballymore Leamington Novices’ Hurdle.
Neither made an impression in the Albert Bartlett at the Cheltenham Festival. Stoney Mountain finished pulled up and Paisley Park could only finish thirteenth. The latter showed that that was no barrier to further success, ranking far higher than his fellow novices and going on to Festival glory the next year.
A cosy win at Haydock saw the handicapper push Paisley Park’s mark up to 152. That necessitated his entrance into Graded company in which he thrived.
Sent off 8/1 for the Long Walk at Ascot, he ran out a snug winner. He defied a penalty in the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham in January with ease, beating West Approach by twelve-lengths, with a whole host of Britain’s best stayers in behind.
Come March, it looked at one point as if the 11/8 favourite for the Stayers’ Hurdle was in trouble, coming into the home straight with plenty still to do. He stayed on in his customary fashion however, eventually landing the Grade One with plenty to spare despite a mistake at the last.
Having defied a mark of 138 at Haydock, Stoney Mountain is likely to remain below a rating of 150. He could well have one more crack in handicap company before he takes on higher order.
There aren’t too many suitable handicaps in which he would be able to run this side of the Cheltenham Festival, so Henry Daly may run him in Graded company sooner than expected.
Either that, or he may take in a Pertemps qualifier. Sire Du Berlais won the race proper from a mark of 145 in 2019, so provided he doesn’t win once again, Stoney Mountain could turn up at Cheltenham in the Pertemps.
Judged on his two latest successes however, there’s plenty more to come from the six-year-old. He won’t be long for handicap company, with possible targets including Paisley Park’s stomping ground of the Ascot Long Walk Hurdle and the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham. Connections could also send him to the Rendlesham at Haydock in February.
Whilst Stoney Mountain currently has around two-stone to find with Paisley Park, don’t be surprised if the new kid on the staying hurdle block is more than a match for the champ in the Stayers’ Hurdle in March.