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The Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot on Saturday, December 18 has been blown wide open as favourite Buzz will not run after suffering a fractured pelvis.
Nicky Henderson’s dual-purpose performer was set to significantly step up in trip to 3m for the first time in his career in preparation for next year’s Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle but those plans are now in tatters.
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As disappointing as Buzz’s injury is, a quality field of eight are set to go to post at 14:25 including last season’s winner Paisley Park, runner-up Thyme Hill and 2020 Cheltenham Festival scorer Champ.
To aid your punting picks, we’ve run the rule over the Long Walk Hurdle runners and you can find our assessments below.
Trainer: Nicky Henderson Jockey: Jonjo O’Neill Jr Age: 9 Weight: 11st 7lbs
Remarkable winner of the RSA Chase in 2020 but he jumped badly before being pulled up early in Gold Cup there when last seen out in March. Returns over hurdles but highly talented and no forlorn hope.
Trainer: Rebecca Curtis Jockey: Adam Wedge Age: 8 Weight: 11st 7lbs
2020 Stayers’ winner at Cheltenham, but he’s gone winless since and came in tailed off in Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury last month. Has it all to prove now.
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On The Blind Side
Trainer: Nicky Henderson Jockey: James Bowen Age: 9 Weight: 11st 7lbs
Smart hurdler who got right back on track when second to Thomas Darby in Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury last month. More is needed here, however, and yard also have Buzz in too.
Trainer: Emma Lavelle Jockey: Tom Bellamy Age: 9 Weight: 11st 7lbs
Dual winner of this event, but he’s yet to hit top form this term, cheekpieces on when only third to Thomas Darby in Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury last month. Tongue tied with a bit to find now.
Trainer: Matthew J. Smith Jockey: Keith Donoghue Age: 8 Weight: 11st 7lbs
Runner-up in 2020 Stayers’ Hurdle who got right back on track when second to Honeysuckle in Hatton’s Grace at Fairyhouse (20f) 20 days ago. Irish raider is not ruled out now stepping back up in trip.
Trainer: Hughie Morrison Jockey: Charlie Deutsch Age: 7 Weight: 11st 7lbs
Looked a stayer on the up when taking Rendlesham Hurdle at Haydock only to be pulled up in Aintree Stayers’ Hurdle in April. Back from 8 months off now with a fair bit to find on form.
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Trainer: Olly Murphy Jockey: Fergus Gregory Age: 8 Weight: 11st 7lbs
Has looked of suspect attitude, but back to his best in first-time tongue tie when winning Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury by 2¼l from On The Blind Side. This demands another step forward, though.
Trainer: Philip Hobbs Jockey: Tom O’Brien Age: 7 Weight: 11st 7lbs
Narrowly denied in this event 12 months ago before landing Aintree Stayers’ Hurdle in April. Not at his best in Auteuil Grade 1 on his return but no surprise to see him take a big step forward here.
Timeform Verdict: A high-class renewal. In the absence of Buzz, last year’s runner-up and Aintree Stayers’ Hurdle winner THYME HILL can get back to winning ways and put a lesser reappearance effort in France firmly behind him. Irish-challenger Ronald Pump looks the main threat now back at his optimum trip, with highly talented Champ not discounted either returned to hurdles.
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