Punchestown Festival News: Paisley Park taking on Champion Stayers challenge

Paisley Park is named after the home of Pop legend Prince and Emma Lavelle will party like it's 1999 if her horse wins the the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle at Punchestown.

Paisley Park will leave the confines of the UK for the first time to race in the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle at Punchestown on Thursday, April 28.

Yet, Emma Lavelle's 10-year-old is used to long distance trips and shouldn't be too perturbed says his trainer.

A famous winner of the Cheltenham Festival Stayers' Hurdle in 2019, Paisley Park was then found to be suffering from a heart issue, which put the kibosh on a defence but he did come back in 2021 and 2022 to Prestbury Park to finish third in the stamina test.

The 2022 Stayers' performance was more than enough to convince connections that a trip to Punchestown is workable.

"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."

Meanwhile, Willie Mullins' Klassical Dream won the race race last season and returns to Punchestown looking to get back to winning ways after a disappointing fifth in the Stayers' at Cheltenham.

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 won the Albert Bartlett in 2021 but has most recently been chasing and returns to the smaller obstacles with a solid each-way chance.

"His work is good and his jumping was just terrible in Cheltenham, so we're reverting back to hurdles and hoping that will work," Cromwell said.

"He was a good novice hurdler last year, so we'll see how we go."

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