The select British challenge at the 2022 Punchestown Festival is one that oozes quality and that is further emphasised by Emma Lavelle sending stable star Paisley Park to Co Kildare on Thursday.

This week’s championship races just keep on giving and Thursday’s Grade 1 Ladbrokes Stayers Hurdle has attracted an eight-strong field that also includes last year’s winner, Klassical Dream.

Paisley Park has been a gallant third in the last two editions of Cheltenham’s Stayers' Hurdle, a race he won in 2019 and the popular 10-year-old adds more than a sprinkle of intrigue to Thursday’s feature.

Lavelle is excited about her rare Punchestown raid. The Marlborough-based trainer said on Tuesday morning: “Touch wood, he’s in really good order, looks great and we’ll see how it goes.

“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.

“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.”

Paisley Park has carried his claret and blue colours of West Ham fan, Andrew Gemmell to distinction and Lavelle said the owner, who also has horses in training in Ireland, was keen to make the journey across.

“He has definitely been up for it. I think it’s perfect to try it this time but I’m sure that if I said we were gonna try it three years ago Andrew would have been even happier! We just had to warm to the task and eventually we got there, but I think it’s the right time to have a go.

“We’re going to come over on Wednesday and go home on Friday. Whether or not we make it to the races Wednesday, we’ll definitely be there all day Thursday, and hopefully nursing some sore heads on Friday!”


As is the case in so many races this week, Willie Mullins is taking a strength in numbers approach and Klassical Dream is joined by his fellow Closutton residents, Melon, Burning Victory and Concertista.

Patrick Mullins was on board as Klassical Dream defied a lengthy lay-off to win this race last year. Paul Townend has been in the saddle ever since and maintains the partnership this week.

Speaking ahead of the start of this year’s Punchestown Festival, Mullins Jnr said of Klassical Dream: “We got the good start in Leopardstown and (at Cheltenham) Klassical started backing up backwards and Paul ended up jumping off last and we are 10 lengths behind Flooring Porter straight away so was that 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.”

Gordon Elliott’s week is littered with decent chances but one of his leading chances looks to come in the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle as Liverpool Hurdle winner Sire Du Berlais add significant depth to the three miler.

Sire Du Berlais lowered the colours of Flooring Porter in Aintree 17 days ago and lines up here alongside the fellow J.P. McManus-owned runner Thedevilscoachman, who will be ridden by Sean Flanagan for trainer Noel Meade.

Gavin Cromwell has opted to drop his Albert Bartlett winner Vanillier back over hurdles and the field is completed by Gentlemansgame for Mouse Morris and Rachael Blackmore, the Jessica Harrington-trained Ashdale Bob (Robbie Power) and the Daryl Jacob-ridden Concertista for Willie Mullins.

Cromwell’s bold play to supplement Gabynako for the Arkle Novice Chase at Cheltenham paid dividends as the seven-year-old took the silver medal behind Edwardstone on that occasion and along with the Mick And Molly Syndicate he’ll be hoping the seven-year-old can go one better in Thursday’s Grade 1 Barberstown Castle Novice Chase.

Once again, Willie Mullins holds a strong hand with Blue Lord (Paul Townend), Gentleman De Mee (Mark Walsh), Haut En Couleurs (Bryan Cooper) and Saint Sam (Sean O’Keeffe).

Thursday also features the historic Mongey Communications La Touche Cup over Punchestown’s famous Cross Country course.

The 17 runners will tackle four miles and two furlongs of Punchestown terrain with a host of different banks and obstacles to negotiate and last year’s winner Singing Banjo is back for Philip Rothwell, while local trainer Peter Maher will saddle 2019 winner Ballyboker Bridge who is now a 15-year-old.