Brendan Duke: Paisley Park can find his stride in Ascot’s Long Walk Hurdle

Dukey's trying to get all his ducks in row for Xmas - racing, darts, and if he can fit in some family and friends, all the better....

Paisley Park jumps hurdle

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A magical time of the year. Top class racing. The best arrowsmiths in the world battling for the world title. Trying to make time for friends and family can be tricky.

Conveniently a number of the people close to me go racing and watch darts. Two birds and all that.

It is an expensive time of the year of course. Winners are always welcome. Even more so around now. Tomorrow offers up a couple of promising options to get some readies in the hod.

PAISLEY PARK (Aiden Coleman) wins at HAYDOCK PARK 24/11/18
Photograph by Grossick Racing Photography 0771 046 1723

Find a few festive favourites at PaddyPower.com

Paisley Park did us a turn at Haydock recently. He steps out of handicap grade at Ascot tomorrow. The Long Walk Hurdle (2.25 pm) looks like a good chance for something to stake a legitimate claim to the wide open Stayers Hurdle crown.

Call Me Lord heads the betting. Rightly so. He closed last season with two huge runs in handicaps. His mark of 160 sets the standard here. We all know that figures achieved in handicaps can be flattering. At 5/2 he can be passed over.

Unowhatimeanharry looks to be on the downgrade. He can still run to a very good level. Nonetheless, it would be disappointing were that level to prove good enough here.

Unowhatimeanharry (Noel Fehily) wins the Grade 1 Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle from Nichols Canyon.
Punchestown Festival.
Photo:Patrick McCann 27.04.2017

Agrapart seems to reserve his best for Cheltenham. Sam Spinner had put in a moody performance prior to unseating on his comeback at Newbury. First time cheekpieces will need to have a dramatic effect if he’s to repeat last year’s win.

Paisley Park’s jumping was a revelation at Haydock. Tucked in behind the leaders, he took virtually every flight in his stride. The reason he was tucked in was to help him settle. The horse has shown headstrong tendencies in the past.

The hold up tactics worked a treat.

The only snag was that on a couple of times horses fell back into his lap. This checked his momentum. He had a lot of ground to make up after the last, but fairly flew home and won snug enough in the end.

The horse will have learned so much from that run. He’s starting to realise his enormous potential. Of course he too could find the jump from bullying horses in handicaps to competing in elite company a bit much. My hunch though is that he’s the real deal. At around 7/1 tomorrow, it’s worth paying to find out.

Clan Legend takes up an engagement in the Tommy Whittle Chase at Haydock (2.40 pm). He had an alternative entry in an easier race at Newcastle. I think connections have made the right call.

This race doesn’t look all that strong, and it’s a valuable pot.

This will be his first run since unseating at Newcastle in February. That’s not a concern. He’s has secured comeback wins in each of the last three seasons. He improved throughout last season. The form of his Haydock win and Wetherby second has real substance.

He looked to be travelling better that anything when coming down at Newcatle. Tomorrow’s trip is a step into the unknown. On run style he looks likely to relish the extra yardage. I’d be surprised if he doesn’t have 7 or 8 lbs in hand. He’ll be around 8/1 at the start. That strikes me as more than fair.

As for a winner over Christmas itself. This looks a bit trickier. The King George has me addled. It’s probably just a race to savour. A highly competitive contest. All the connections will believe they have a legitimate chance of claiming the mid winter jewel. I agree with them, and consequently am having great difficulty ruling horses out.

Paddy will doubtless offer extra places on the PP Chase and Welsh National. This will likely tempt me into a bet. Pairofbrowneyes looks the best handicapped horse in the former. He let us down when deciding to go through, rather than over, the fifth in the Irish National. Off only 1 lb higher he should go very close, if avoiding mishap.

Another casualty of an eventful Irish National was Folsom Blue. He would surely have won but for the shenanigans at the last. I know he will be 12 in a couple of weeks, but off a mark only 3 lbs higher than Fairyhouse looks well treated. The merciless slog around Chepstow looks made for him. These pair have been well found in the market though.

Their prices aren’t likely to shorten much. My advice is to wait for the day and the places to lengthen.

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