This century, staying stars have come in waves, in increasing longevity: the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham was won twice by Baracouda and three times by Inglis Drever before four-in-a-row from Big Buck’s. A period of passers-by passed us by, but now we’re well and truly in the era of Paisley Park, and in the corrupted words of Perry Como: he’s beginning to look a lot like Big Buck’s.
From the sequence he’s building, to his power-play when it matters most in a race, and even his idling influence at Newbury last month, Paisley Park’s similarities are strengthening to Big Buck’s. Included in his 18-race winning streak were three Long Walks for Big Buck’s, already odds-on for the first of them, whereas it says a lot about how far and how fast he’s come that Paisley Park was 8/1 when winning this race – now renamed the Marsh Hurdle - last year.
Only one of his six-straight successes has been achieved by more than 2½ lengths, because by and large he shows what’s needed rather than all he’s got, a la Big Buck’s, so don’t expect fireworks on Saturday but do expect another fault-free footstep on his mechanical march to a second Stayers’ Hurdle.
Considering both his promise as a novice hurdler, notably when a close fourth in the Supreme, and the jumping academy in which he resides, namely the Henry de Bromhead stable, it’s a headscratcher that Paloma Blue has managed just the one win over fences.
Things haven’t gone to plan, but things haven’t gone smoothly, so it seems, with his races spaced out over the last 12 months, but his reappearance at Gowran suggested a change in him, recharging batteries and restoring faith.
Much admittedly rests on what exactly Getabird is, because nobody really knows, but, in theory, running him to 1½ lengths off levels, as he did at Gowran, is something to shout about, and critically Paloma Blue jumped better than before – a lot better – as if Team de Bromhead had really put some work into him in the summer.
The revamped (and re-routed) Riders Onthe Storm is obviously going to be a tough nut to crack in the graduation chase (1.15) at Ascot, but Paloma Blue is getting 3lb off him, and Gowran was also the first time in a long time that he’s faced heavy ground, which may well be his bag, and which will be a key consideration for this contest.
Whatsupwithyou and Cavok. Two names and one day that will, at last, have put a smile on Ben Pauling’s face, because Friday’s double (with his only two runners, at odds of 12/1 and 33/1) indicates that, after a difficult draught, Ben Pauling’s yard hasn’t only turned the corner but is halfway up the next street.
It’s a green light for his heavyweights to start punching, amongst them Kildisart, who has it in him to land a knock-out blow in Saturday’s valuable Listed handicap chase at 3.00. It was on this card last year, in the graduation chase, that Kildisart really announced his arrival, on his way to hitting heights at the spring festivals, finishing fourth in a ridiculous renewal of the JLT prior to making light of a mark of 148 at Aintree.
There was mitigation for his quiet comeback at Carlisle, the yard’s autumn fortunes first and foremost, but also the small matter of trying to hang onto the coat-tails of a certain Lostintranslation that day.
He probably wasn’t right at the time, but the time is probably precisely right now for him to swing into action, reignited by the stable spark, and a handicap mark of 155 could well be beneath him given the trajectory he had been on.
1688 days ago, Not So Sleepy won a Derby Trial - the Dee Stakes - at Chester. How did he win it, as the outsider of 4? The simple answer is that the ground was barely raceable. Welcome to Ascot!
For a horse who had the volume of flat racing behind him that he did, added to the bad habit he started out with over hurdles (pulled hard) at the beginning of 2019, to do what he did in a handicap hurdle at Ascot last time was fairly remarkable, albeit dictating to a far smaller field than Saturday’s. but the strategy was just a means to an end, and, from everything we know of him, a strongly-run race on heavy ground is his perfect playground, which is exactly what he’ll get at 3.35.
Being at the bottom of the weights – carrying 10-3 – rather than the top is a conspicuous help under conditions like these, and though there are several other unexposed up-and-comers in the line-up, it’s not as if the hurly-burly of a big field is anything new to him, remembering all that was asked of him on the flat.
Not So Sleepy ought to be in his element with things, hence 10/1 is a very backable price for him.