Emma Lavelle’s Paisley Park will compete away from home turf for the first time when he contests the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle at Punchestown on Thursday.
The 10-year-old is a regular in top-class staying hurdles and took the ultimate prize in the division when landing the Cheltenham Festival Stayers’ Hurdle in 2019.
A heart issue derailed his title defence the next year but in 2021 he finished a five-length third in the race to Flooring Porter and this time around he was beaten two and three-quarter lengths when third again to the same horse.
The pace with which Paisley Park galloped up the hill at Cheltenham and his upward trajectory this season have persuaded connections not to bring his season to a close and he will make his first start on Irish turf on Thursday.
“It’s something we haven’t tried before, but he’s certainly in good order and we’re looking forward to running him at Punchestown,” Lavelle said.
“I think Cheltenham is a track that suits him really well because of the stiff finish and he’s had a good year. He was third in the Long Walk and he won the Cleeve again and we were delighted with how he ran in the Stayers’.
“It was a brilliant ride on Flooring Porter when (Danny Mullins) slowed the field down the hill. It stops Paisley Park’s momentum and it takes him a long time to get back going again. It was just one of those things and was his usual, genuine, staying finish.
“I think Punchestown, which is a big, galloping track, should suit him. He seems in really good shape, so we’ll see what happens.”
Willie Mullins’ Klassical Dream was a nine-length winner of this race last season and returns to the track to bid for a ninth success in the race for his trainer.
The gelding was also last seen in the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham having started as the 11-4 favourite, but he and Paul Townend were not afforded the most competitive start and were ultimately beaten into fifth place.
Patrick Mullins, the trainer’s son and assistant, said: “We got the good start in Leopardstown and (at Cheltenham) Klassical started backing up and Paul ended up jumping off last and we are 10 lengths behind Flooring Porter straight away, so that was just the swing.
“I was a little bit disappointed with how weakly he finished. He travelled up there very well but I don’t think that was him at his best and I’d be disappointed if he couldn’t win at Punchestown.”
Gavin Cromwell’s Vanillier will return to hurdles after spending his campaign thus far jumping fences.
The grey was a high quality novice hurdler and took the Grade One Albert Bartlett by a comfortable 11 lengths at Cheltenham last season.
His progression to chasing saw his finish third on his debut over fences and go on to land a four-runner renewal of the Florida Pearl, but his jumping left something to be desired in the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham last time out and has prompted Cromwell to return to the smaller obstacles at Punchestown.
“His work is good and his jumping was just terrible in Cheltenham, so we’re reverting back to hurdles and hoping that will work,” he said.
“He was a good novice hurdler last year, so we’ll see how we go.”
Elsewhere in the race is Gordon Elliott’s Sire Du Berlais, a winner last time out when defeating Flooring Porter to land the Liverpool Hurdle at Aintree’s Grand National meeting.
He is owned by JP McManus and is one of two horses to run in his silks in the race, with Noel Meade’s Thedevilscoachman looking to follow up a Grade Two success in the Boyne Hurdle.
Ashdale Bob was the runner-up on that occasion and represents Jessica Harrington at Punchestown, with Mouse Morris’ Gentlemansgame and Mullins’ Concertista completing the field of eight.