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Cheltenham: Weekend Clues

Cheltenham Trials Day took centre stage on Saturday afternoon and it was old-stager Paisley Park who stole the show for Emma Lavelle and Aidan Coleman.

He rolled back the years in winning another Cleeve Hurdle, his third, re-igniting the dream that he can reclaim his Stayers' Hurdle title on 17th March in the process.

Paisley Park's performance made him one of this weekend's market movers for The Festival and here's our review of the action with March in mind.

Quirks and all can't stop Paisley Park

Paisley Park was aptly-named on Saturday afternoon as he threatened to park himself at the start.

Just as the flag was lowered to start the race, Aidan Coleman's mount turned into the running rail and almost failed to go with the field, who were immediately gifted a 15-length advantage on the dual Cleeve winner.

In the eyes of Ruby Walsh, working as a pundit: "You just give up and come back into the parade ring. He's running around now in a race he can't possibly win."

But Coleman had other ideas, revealing his thoughts after the race as he said: "I threw the buckle at him after the first and said, 'if you want to get into it, you do it, I'm not doing anything. You've already annoyed me, so you sort it out. You got yourself into this mess, so sort it out'."

Sort it out Paisley Park did. He still had a mountain to climb seemingly as the field turned for home but he landed on the scene as they jumped the last hurdle and he soon joined odds-on favourite Champ, before running strongest up the Cheltenham hill for a famous win.

The 2019 Stayers' Hurdle hero is now 7/1 to retake the crown in March, with Champ eased out to 13/2 after this setback. Klassical Dream, surprisingly turned over in Ireland on Thursday is now 6/1, while the mare that beat him in the Galmoy Hurdle, Royal Kahala, is a 10/1 chance.

Last year's winner Flooring Porter is now heading the market at 4/1, with Long Walk runner-up Thyme Hill at 5/1. Suddenly, the Stayers' is a fascinating race and if Paisley Park can avoid the shenanigans of Saturday, he looks a key player.

Piper's tune oh-so sweet

Performance of the day on Saturday surely would have to go to Pied Piper, now 5/2 to win the Triumph Hurdle on 18th March after sauntering to success in his Cheltenham trial.

The New Approach gelding was smart on the Flat and made a winning start over hurdles at Punchestown on New Year's Eve having left John & Thady Gosden to join Gordon Elliott.

That looked a promising start, but Saturday was a different calibre of effort completely.

After a patient spin around in rear, Davy Russell's partner cruised into contention under his motionless rider coming to the second last.

He got himself into the lead still on the bit before jumping the final flight and extended away to win by nine lengths from Moka De Vassy and Forever William - who battled hard for the silver medal.

This was an awesome performance from Pied Piper, leading his rivals on a merry dance, and he is going to be very hard to beat on this evidence.

His hurdles wins have come on heavy and good ground, so conditions won't faze him come March and, after Saturday, there are absolutely no worries that he'll handle Cheltenham.

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No harm in trying for Jonjo's charge

With Constitution Hill the hot favourite for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, the only horse to beat him was in action on a mundane card at Sedgefield on Sunday.

That claim is held by Anyharminasking, a Getaway gelding trained by Jonjo O'Neill and owned by Mrs Gay Smith, who led home Constitution Hill in a point-to-point in Ireland last spring.

He hasn't been quite as explosive as Nicky Henderson's inmate as a hurdler, but he's certainly progressing nicely.

After successive seconds in maidens at Worcester and Uttoxeter, he made a winning handicap bow at Catterick (1m7½f, good to soft) in mid-January and he easily justified odds-on favouritism in the follow-up at Sedgefield over 2m1f on good ground.

He had an easy five-lengths to spare off a mark of 127 and his new mark should get him into a handicap at the Festival. He's in the betting at 16/1 for the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle on 18th March and a potential step up to two-and-a-half-miles in that contest could be right up his street.

Mullins' hold on Mares novices' contest is strong

The first five runnings of the Dawn Run Mares' Novices' Hurdle all went to Willie Mullins - that sequence broken last spring as Telmesomethinggirl scored for the irrepressible Henry De Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore team that week at Cheltenham.

After winning the Grade 3 Solerina Mares Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse on Saturday the Mullins-trained Allegorie De Vassy is 11/4 to win the Dawn Run on 17th March.

The Rich Ricci-owned charge came home three-and-a-half lengths to the good from stablemate Brandy Love, though that doesn't tell half the story.

Paul Townend was on the runner-up and she jumped to her left throughout the race, violently so at times, ensuring she was forfeiting lots of lengths every time they left the ground. That she finished as close as she did was a nod to her underlying talent, surely.

Going left-handed at Cheltenham will play to her strengths more than Saturday's race and Brandy Love at 9/2 could be good enough to turn that form around with her Closutton stablemate as such.

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