Paisley Park will wear cheekpieces for the first time in the Ladbrokes Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury on Friday.
Trainer Emma Lavelle hopes the headgear will help sharpen up the nine-year-old in a race which will help determine whether the nine-year-old continues over smaller obstacles or goes novice chasing.
Paisley Park, the Stayers’ Hurdle hero at the Cheltenham Festival in 2019, took this prize later that year and was second to Thyme Hill 12 months ago.
“This is an important race for Paisley Park to decide what the next step is,” said Lavelle.
“He doesn’t in any way suggest at home that he is any different to how he’s been in other years, but he has to go and do it at Newbury.
“The entries are pretty much what we’ve just run against and if he doesn’t step up on his first run, then we know we are not where we were and we will have to make a decision on what we are doing. Do we let him have a try over fences or stay over hurdles?”
Paisley Park’s past experience in headgear did not produce the desired outcome but cheekpieces have been chosen to make him more focussed and help him travel better for jockey Aidan Coleman.
“We are not putting them on because he is ungenuine or saving something for himself, therefore it’s not about having a visor to block out everything, it’s about doing something to make him concentrate a bit more and stop him worrying about galloping alongside other horses and to think more about travelling and what’s going on in the race,” said Lavelle.
Paisley Park faces five rivals, including Indefatigable. Paul Webber’s mare had him back in third when winning the bet365 Hurdle at Wetherby four weeks ago. The Olly Murphy-trained Thomas Darby, who was fourth that day, is also in the mix.
Lisnagar Oscar, the 2020 Stayers’ Hurdle victor, takes his chance for trainer Rebecca Curtis with Nicky Henderson saddling On The Blind Side. Irish raider, the Paul Nolan-trained Mrs Milner, completes the sextet.
A small, but select, field of four has been declared for the Ladbrokes Committed To Safer Gambling Novices’ Chase.
Tom Lacey’s Tea Clipper has to give weight all-round after winning a Listed contest at Chepstow on his fencing debut last month. Paul Nicholls is represented by Pic d’Orhy, who made all in a four-horse affair at Ffos Las.
The Gary Moore-trained Nassalam, narrow winner of a novice handicap chase at Ascot, and Alex Hales’ Millers Bank, comfortable winner on his chasing debut at Huntingdon, completes the quartet.