Emma Lavelle’s stable star was the dominant figure in the three-mile division last year, winning all his five starts. His unbeaten sequence culminated in victory over Sam Spinner at the 2019 Festival and he made a good start to the present campaign in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury in November.
Paisley Park should have tried to defend his crown in the Marsh (Long Walk) Hurdle at Ascot in December, but was a late absentee on the day of the race due to the particularly testing conditions.
The main British threat to Paisley Park on March 12th could come from Harry Fry’s If The Cap Fits, whose only attempt at the trip resulted in a thrilling win in the Ryanair Stayers Hurdle at Aintree. He made a successful reappearance in the Coral Hurdle at Ascot.
Tom George has two strong entries in Marsh Hurdle scorer The Worlds End and Summerville Boy, winner of the Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Ireland’s 19 possibles include the 2018 winner Penhill, one of seven contenders for Willie Mullins. Other names to note for the Closutton handler are top-class mares Benie Des Dieux and Laurina, as well as 2019 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle victor Klassical Dream.
City Island (Martin Brassil) and Minella Indo (Henry de Bromhead) were also Grade One-winning novices at the Festival in 2019, plundering the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle and Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle respectively.
Mouse Morris is hoping Sams Profile can stake his claim for staying honours at Gowran later this month.
Morris, who landed the Stayers’ Hurdle 30 years ago with Trapper John, said: “The Stayers’ Hurdle is the aim with Sams Profile and his first run back will be in the Galmoy Hurdle. We were thinking about going chasing with him, but he had a slight setback so we decided to stay over hurdles for this season.
“I would hope he could have a lively chance if he went there, but we will see how he goes in the Galmoy first.”
A formidable Irish challenge includes three of the best mares in training – Apple’s Jade (Gordon Elliott), the 2018 winner Benie Des Dieux and the unbeaten Honeysuckle (Henry de Bromhead).
Previously trained by Mullins, Relegate captured the Weatherbys Champion Bumper in 2018 but failed to scale those heights last season.
Murphy, who returned to the training ranks in May, said: “Relegate is coming along nicely now. We have had a few stops and starts, which meant she wasn’t out over Christmas, but we have had a clear run for the last month or so.
“All being well, she will start off at the Dublin Racing Festival in a handicap hurdle. We have put a lot of work into her jumping, as it was letting her down during her novice season. It will have to improve, but we hope that it will.
“She will have plenty of options at Cheltenham and I suppose we will be guided by how she gets on at the Dublin Racing Festival.”
Other interesting entries include Nicky Henderson’s Verdana Blue and Phil Kirby’s prolific Lady Buttons.