Lavelle wants rain for Paisley Park's Cleeve Hurdle treble bid

Paisley Park is "in great order" according to his trainer Emma Lavelle, who says she'd like some rain at Cheltenham ahead of what she hopes will be a third Cleeve Hurdle win for her stable star.

The 10-year-old won the Grade 2 contest in both 2019 and 2020, going on to win the Stayers' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival on the former occasion.

He is now without a win since December 2020, when he got up in the final stride to beat Thyme Hill in Ascot's Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle, on heavy ground. He went on to be a very respectable third behind Flooring Porter when trying to regain his stayers' crown last March.

However, this season he has yet to show quite the same ability and there is a school of thought that suggests that his powers may just be on the wane.

Even so, he has been third in all three outings, firstly Wetherby's Grade 2 West Yorkshire Hurdle behind Indefatigable, then again when beaten favourite behind Thomas Darby in Newbury's Grade 2 Long Distance Hurdle, and most recently behind Champ in the latest renewal of the Long Walk last month.

Perhaps significantly, all of this season's efforts have been on good to soft ground and perhaps that, rather than any reduction in his qualities as a racehorse, has been the issue. Maybe he now simply needs genuinely testing ground to show his capabilities.

His trainer is certainly not downbeat: "Touch wood he is in great order and the Cleeve Hurdle is very much the plan," confirmed Lavelle.

"He is on target for that and we are looking forward to it. Hopefully for him, anyway, the rain keeps coming, as that is what he needs - that proper test."

Any plans to belatedly send the Andrew Gemmell-owned 10-year-old over fences were scuppered by a dry autumn and if all goes well, the Stayers' Hurdle, which he won in 2019, is still the primary goal.

"I can't say I'm that disappointed we are still over hurdles," she added.

"I think that it was an option to go over fences and his run in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot was a good one on ground that really didn't suit, and I'm really looking forward to seeing him run on proper soft ground and see where we are with him."

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