With all or nearly all of the Christmas racing digested, CALUM LEITCH decides its now time to look at some antepost fancies and value prices ahead of the Cheltenham festival with one runner suggested each day this week.
PAISLEY PARK – STAYERS HURDLE – 10/1
So brings us to Day 4 and selection number 4, Paisley Park. This is and has been my strongest antepost fancy since I seen the horse’s first outing this season.
Last season he ran in the Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle at the Festival where we finished midfield. But don’t fret as a number of top-class horses have been beaten in that race over the years and is a graveyard for favourites and I think its the toughest race of the festival given how fast they go for 3miles and given how young and inexperienced the novices are.
For example, in the 2015 renewal
Native River – 9th of 10 finishers (19 runners)
Horses Pulled Up That Year
Tea For Two
Elegant Escape finished well back 2 years ago and we know how tough and what a dour stayer he is (one of the current favourites for the Grand National) and even the well-touted and apple of Nicky Henderson’s eye Santini was beat in this last year.
This race seems like it comes too early for some great horses and shows how tough it is to win.
FORM LAST SEASON
Outside of the Festival run, Paisley Park made a winning Hurdle debut by beating the very well-regarded Vision Des Flos by 7 lengths. Emma Lavelle’s horse then finished 2nd on next 2 outings to 2 very decent types before the Festival run and was given a mark of 140 before this season.
I watched him closely on his seasonal re-appearance as I was looking closely at the merits of 1 or 2 others horses in that race. On closer inspection at the race, I thought he had been let in lightly at 140 and could prove up to defying top weight. He beat the handicap “good thing” of Nicky Henderson’s comfortably, and accounted for 1 or 2 others progressive looking sorts with a storming and staying-on finish to land a valuable Aintree Handicap.
Paisley Park was hit by a 7lb rise for his next outing which sees him top weight again for a return to Haydock and 3miles and at this stage he’s a 66/1 shot for the Stayers Hurdle.
First Assignment is 11/10 for this race, he’s been favourite for some big handicaps this Winter and 2nd favourite for the Lanzarote this Saturday and seems ahead of the handicapper for the shrewd Ian Williams. Paisley Park came from absolutely out of the clouds to win this race, it was a breathtaking finish. He somehow rallied (even with all that weight) after being hampered badly twice and somehow got up to win a Class 1 handicap off top weight and also proving he handles all ground.
He’s now a 25/1 shot to win the Stayers and he heads to Ascot for one of the biggest races of the year in the Division, the Long Walk Hurdle.
I couldn’t believe he was as big as 8/1 as he’s won two very valuable handicaps off top weight and has a very nice profile, travels very well, stays very well and his early novice form has been really franked.
He travelled very strongly in the Long Walk Hurdle, and when Aidan Coleman said go, there only looked one winner.
I still think at 10/1 he is massively overpriced as he will run here. He goes on any ground, he stays, he sees his races out well and a strong early pace seems to help him. He’s also improving at a rate of knots and this Division lacks a superstar.
Supasundae is a doubtful stayer to me, has been outstayed by Apples Jade in the past and even though came 2nd last year, that race was run at a jaunt as opposed to a testing gallop, proved by the fact that the Pertemps that same day was done much quicker in the time and speed figures.
Penhill returned from an absence last year to win this and has 2 Festival wins from 2, so he has to be massively respected. But I don’t the race was truly run with Sam Spinner not really making it a test from the front last year, and with Penhill’s flat pedigree, he was always going to enjoy a sprint coming home.
I don’t think Apples Jade will run here, but I would be very worried if she does.
I can’t say I’m too worried about anything outside of Penhill and I still think he has it to prove on softer ground with a true test from the front.
All signs lead to Paisley Park for me.
Stay tuned throughout the week to find all the festive fancies