Long Walk Hurdle Preview – Saturday 19th December
Last updated: December 17, 2020 by Leon Marshal
The feature race at Ascot on Saturday is the Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle over three miles. This is a significant trail for the Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March. Six horses have won both races in the same season, the most recent being Paisley Park (2018-2019). Baracouda won this race a record four times between 2000 and 2004 while Big Buck’s (2009-2011) and Reve De Sivola (2012-2014) both chalked up three victories.
Paisley Park On Target For Second Long Walk Hurdle
Paisley Park established himself as the leading stayer in 2018-19 with an impressive string of victories culminating in that Cheltenham success. He started odds-on favourite to repeat that victory in March but ran well below form when seventh to Lisnagar Oscar. He was given a lengthy break after that disappointment but returned to finish second to Thyme Hill at Newbury last month. Although that was a satisfactory return, he did not display his customary turn of foot in the closing stages. Trainer Emma Lavelle is confident that she has him in good form as he bids to return to the top of the stayers’ rankings.
Thyme Hill was a talented novice and finished fourth to Monkfish in the Albert Bartlett last season. He was also returning from a lay-off when scoring at Newbury, staying on strongly to win by a length and a half. Philip Hobbs is not concerned by the likelihood of testing conditions at Ascot, and he meets Paisley Park on 3lbs worse terms.
Roksana receives the 7lbs mares’ allowance and looked an improved performer when taking the Bet365 Hurdle at Wetherby in October. She gained her biggest victory in the Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham 2019 but could only finish fourth in that race in March. Her allowance certainly puts her in with an each-way chance on Saturday.
Main Fact Seeking Tenth Successive Victory
Main Fact continued his remarkable run of victories when grinding out a win in the valuable Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle at Haydock last month. He was given a confident ride that day in gruelling conditions and stayed on best of all to beat Third Wind. That has resulted in another 7lbs hike in the ratings, so he pitches into Grade 1 company for the first time. David Pipe has placed him skilfully to win nine successive races on the flat and over jumps, and he will have his favoured soft/heavy ground.
The Jam Man was fancied at Haydock but could only finish sixth. He only gets a 3lbs pull in the weights with Main Fact for twelve and a half lengths. Third Wind also needs to find improvement to turn around Haydock form. The son of Shirocco lost little in defeat that day but is only 1lb better off with the winner for nearly three lengths.
Thistlecrack is now 12 years of age, the winner of the King George VI Chase in 2016 but only seen on the racecourse seven times since. The last of those was at Newbury in 2019 when beaten by Paisley Park, and it will be a surprise if he is able to win in the top grade at this stage of his career. Younevercall looks the pick of the remainder, narrowly beaten at Kempton following a 506-day absence.
Long Walk Hurdle Betting Tips
Thyme Hill @2-1 Bet365
Each-way 1/5 odds, 1,2,3
The Long Walk Hurdle is due off at 2.25 at Ascot on Saturday 19th December and will be screened live on ITV4.