Emma Lavelle reports Paisley Park ready to make his seasonal debut in the bet365 Hurdle at Wetherby.
How the nine-year-old performs in Saturday’s Grade Two is set to determine which course the Wiltshire handler takes with him this season.
Paisley Park has been in training longer than usual before his first start of the campaign, and Lavelle is just hoping the ground will be suitable for her former Stayers Hurdle hero.
“I couldn’t be happier with our preparation,” she said.
“We got him in earlier, and hence he’s ready to run earlier. I’d love to run him.
“Hopefully this will direct us for the season.
“It is very much the plan to run – but if we don’t think the ground is soft enough, then I won’t run him. I won’t take a chance.
“I’m absolutely delighted with him, and he’s ready to go.”
Olly Murphy is excited to be giving Thomas Darby just his second run over three miles.
The eight-year-old was a fine third behind Thyme Hill on his first start at the trip, in the Grade One Liverpool Hurdle at Aintree in April.
“He’s in good nick and he’s ready to start the season off,” said Murphy.
“Obviously it’s only his second run at three miles, so he’s very unexposed over the trip. It looks a lovely starting point.
“Paisley Park is going to be hard to beat. It’s a competitive renewal, but I’m looking forward to him running.”
Dan Skelton believes the step up to three miles will suit Proschema – who is also going up in class.
“He’s got it to do on ratings,” said the Alcester trainer.
“I’m looking forward to going three miles with him. I think he’ll like the track – I think he’ll outrun his handicap mark.
“It’s a very strong race. But I’ve always wanted to go three miles with him, and this will give us a good idea.”
The sole Irish raider is Charles Byrnes’ Run For Oscar, who tries his hand in Pattern company following an emphatic success in a handicap hurdle at Listowel last month.
“Run For Oscar has gone up considerably in the handicap at home, and we just thought this would be a good opportunity to dip our toe into graded company,” said County Limerick-based Byrnes.
“I think as long as the ground stays on the better side, three miles should be about right for him because he seems to stay well enough.
“On ratings, he is not far off most of them – aside from the top one or two. I am not saying he will be good enough to win or anything, but I think he could run a big race.”
Paul Nicholls is running Grade Two-winning chaser Master Tommytucker over the smaller obstacles for the first time since April 2018.
“I’ve been wanting for a while to try him at three miles, and this looks an ideal opportunity over hurdles because it is hard enough to find races for him over fences off his current mark of 160,” Nicholls told Betfair.
“He has to start somewhere, and it obviously helps that he isn’t lumbered with any penalties. The return to hurdles will not do him any harm, and I have a feeling he is crying out for this step up in trip. I did the same a few years ago with Tidal Bay, and he won it. I expect Tommy to be competitive.”
Nicholls is hoping the rain falls to aid Miranda’s cause in the bet365 Mares’ Hurdle.
“I wouldn’t mind seeing plenty of rain for Miranda, who has been a big success story for the Owners Group,” he said.
“She has won five times for them, is very fit, having done plenty of work ahead of this race – and looks to have a nice chance.”
Molly Ollys Wishes comes down in trip, but Skelton senses it is the right place to begin her campaign.
“Two miles is very short for her, but I feel it’s a good start to the season,” said Skelton.
“I feel we can build on this run – but Wetherby is a big, galloping track, so she isn’t going to be out-speeded all the way. There are going to be speedier horses – but she’s a hardy, tough mare and will give her running, that’s for sure.”
The Nicky Henderson-trained Marie’s Rock and Alan King’s Her Indoors are among others in a competitive field.