Paisley Park to debut cheekpieces for Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury
Star hurdler Paisley Park will race in cheekpieces for the first time when he bids to get off the mark for the season in the Ladbrokes Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury on Friday, the opening day of the Ladbrokes Winter Carnival.
Trainer Emma Lavelle hopes the equipment will help sharpen up the 2019 champion staying hurdler for a mission which will help determine whether he continues over obstacles or embarks on a novice chase campaign.
Paisley Park won Newbury’s Grade 2 3m hurdle two years ago and was second last year to Thyme Hill.
He is returning to the track after finishing third in the West Yorkshire Hurdle at Wetherby last month, where he hit his now customary flat spot before running on late in the race won by Indefatigable.
Indefatigable is among Paisley Park’s opponents again in a six-runner field which also features 2020 Stayers’ Hurdle winner Lisnagar Oscar and Mrs Milner, winner of the Pertemps Final in March who travels over from Ireland.
“This is an important race for Paisley Park to decide what the next step is,” said Lavelle. “He doesn’t in any way suggest at home that he is any different to how he’s been in other years, but he has to go and do it at Newbury.
“The entries are pretty much what we’ve just run against and if he doesn’t step up on his first run then we know we are not where we were and we will have to make a decision on what we are doing. Do we let him have a try over fences or stay over hurdles?”
Nine-year-old Paisley Park’s past experience in headgear did not produce the desired outcome but cheekpieces have been chosen to make him more focused and help him travel better for jockey Aidan Coleman.
Lavelle said: “When we put a visor on him a few years ago he ran like the Hounds of the Baskervilles were chasing him in the Albert Bartlett. It was a disaster and clearly he raced with way too much vigor and didn’t last to the end.
“We are not putting them on because he is ungenuine or saving something for himself, therefore it’s not about having a visor to block out everything, it’s about doing something to make him concentrate a bit more and stop him worrying about galloping alongside other horses and to think more about travelling and what’s going on in the race.”
Paisley Park was beaten five and a quarter lengths by Indefatigable when conceding 13lb to the winner. This time he will only carry 7lb more.
“At the time we were a little bit deflated, wondering why he was making everything so hard for himself,” Lavelle added. “On rewatching the race it was probably a better performance than we thought at the time.
“My gut feeling is we probably need to be harder on him in training than we have been. He’s got older and wiser and I think he takes a bit more work. He’s done a lot since then, including going to Newbury for the Gallops Morning where he did a good bit of work. He should be stripping a bit fitter and sharper.”
Paisley Park is set to be one of four Lavelle runners during the Ladbrokes Winter Carnival.
Flemcara, Paisley Park’s work partner, will have his first start of the season in the Play Ladbrokes 1-2-Free On Football Handicap Hurdle.
On Saturday Killer Clown could contest the Sir Peter O’Sullevan Memorial Handicap Chase and Boreham Bill the Get Your Ladbrokes £1 Free Bet Today Handicap Hurdle.