Emma Lavelle reports Paisley Park firmly on course for a likely rematch with Thyme Hill in the Ryanair Stayers Hurdle at Aintree.
The Philip Hobbs-trained Thyme Hill came out on top when the pair first met in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury in November, before Lavelle’s stable star reversed the form in an epic Long Walk at Ascot the following month.
A third clash was on the cards in last month’s Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, but Thyme Hill missed the race through injury, while Paisley Park had to settle for an honourable third in his bid to regain his crown.
The pair are among 18 entries for this weekend’s Grade One contest.
Lavelle said: “Paisley Park is very much an intended runner on Saturday. He’s in good form and it’s all systems go.
“Aintree is obviously a different type of track to Cheltenham, but I’m very happy with how he is and I’m looking forward to the rematch with Thyme Hill and a few others.
“He’s won over two and a half miles at Aintree and I don’t think tracks really matter to him, to be honest.
“He’s definitely a bit sharper all round since he ran at Cheltenham, so hopefully it will work out on Saturday.”
Tom O’Brien is booked to partner Thyme Hill following the retirement of regular rider Richard Johnson. O’Brien guided the seven-year-old to a debut success on his racecourse debut in a Worcester bumper in 2018.
Other contenders include last year’s Stayers’ Hurdle winner Lisnagar Oscar and Dan Skelton’s mare Roksana, who was narrowly beaten by If The Cap Fits – also in the mix this weekend – in the last running of this race two years ago.
The first of three Grade Ones on Randox Grand National day is the Betway Mersey Novices’ Hurdle, for which 22 horses are engaged.
The likely favourite is the Paul Nicholls-trained Bravemansgame, who was best of the British when third behind Bob Olinger in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Ballyadam (Henry de Bromhead), Dreal Deal (Ronan McNally) and The Shunter (Emmet Mullins) are potential Irish challengers.
The brilliant Shishkin will face a maximum of eight rivals when he bids to round off a flawless campaign with victory in the Doom Bar Maghull Novices’ Chase.
Nicky Henderson’s runaway Arkle winner will be doubtless be a red-hot favourite to make it four from four over fences with another top-level triumph under Nico de Boinville.
Arkle runner-up Eldorado Allen could take him on again, as could the fourth Allmankind.