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Paisley Park defends his Long Walk Hurdle crown at Ascot on Saturday – but does Emma Lavelle’s popular charge have the backing of Paddy Power’s horse racing experts?
The experienced stayer has failed to score since winning last year’s renewal and faces a whole host of quality rivals including Champ, Ronald Pump and Thyme Hill.
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Nicky Henderson’s dual-purpose performer Buzz was the favourite for the Long Walk Hurdle but is a non-runner after suffering a fractured pelvis on Friday morning, which leaves a field of eight set to go to post.
Ruby Walsh, Frank Hickey and co have run the rule over the Grade 1 and delivered their verdicts, which you can read below.
- LONG WALK HURDLE RUNNER-BY-RUNNER GUIDE AS 8 SET TO GO TO POST AT ASCOT
LONG WALK HURDLE TIPS
Matt Chapman: I was all over Buzz in this but when he came out it took little persuasion to swap to Thyme Hill. At the age of seven, THYME HILL is arguably the top stayer in Europe and he was fabulous at Aintree in April. He flopped when last seen in France, but I fully expect him to bounce back here for the master Philip Hobbs and the very talented Tom O’Brien.
Mick Fitzgerald: The feature race of the day and the terrible news about Buzz has cast a little shadow over the contest. Let’s hope we see him back on track someday.
The big question now as far as the race is concerned is where will the pace come from? On the Blind Side and Lisnagar Oscar may lead – but they won’t go Flat out from the front. Thyme Hill was really disappointing in France last time and needs to bounce back, but was just pipped here last season by the re-opposing Paisley Park who has also lost a bit of sparkle – so Thyme Hill is of interest.
The Irish raider RONALD PUMP is a fascinating runner and was second to the mighty Honeysuckle in the 2m 4f Hattons Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse last time. He was also third in the Grade 1 at Punchestown over this trip before and should definitely hit the places at least.
Frank Hickey: I’m going to take a chance on RONALD PUMP each way. He hasn’t won a race since November 2019. In the interim he was second in the Leopardstown Pertemps qualifier off 145, second in a Stayers Hurdle to Lisnagar Oscar and second in two Hattons Grace Hurdles to Honeysuckle. Yes, he was beaten by 8l, but he went toe to toe with her and was the only one to really try and beat her. 3m should see him in an even better light and a repeat of that level of form would leave him bang in the mix here.
Timeform: 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.
Ruby Walsh: Buzz would’ve been worthy of going off favourite before his injury but there was always a doubt over his stamina. I’ve always been a Thyme Hill fan but he was disappointing on his return at Auteuil last month. The value lies with RONALD PUMP. He was the only one that was in the race with Honeysuckle at Fairyhouse. There’s still a big day in Ronald Pump.
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LONG WALK HURDLE TIPS SUMMARY
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Saturday’s Racing Tips
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