Ascot Gr1 Today

The feature is off at 16h25

The Gr1 Howden Long Walk Hurdle (16h25) is the highlight of UK racing today at Ascot where ground conditions are good to soft, soft in places.

Eight run with five runners at the top of the bookmaker’s boards only separated by a few pounds on official ratings, but all have question marks against them in what looks a tactical and competitive event.

Defending champion Paisley Park has a perfect 2 for 2 record at the course but he hasn’t looked the same horse since. The champion staying hurdler of 2018 has had his health issues in the past and the nine-year-old did not appear suited to making the running at Newbury last time out.

Trainer Nicky Henderson has a decent hand today (Pic – Dave Boylan)

Trainer Nicky Henderson runs Champ and On the Blind Side. The latter looks held at the weights, and looks sure to be on the speed, but as there is no obvious pace in this, that could suit a horse with a change of gear who settles well.

Stable companion Champ fits that bill if he travels into the race as he has done in the past winning five of his seven starts over hurdles – including two grade one victories. However, he has not been seen hurdling for three years and returns from a nine-month rest.

Thyme Hill was a top-class staying novice last term and quickly established himself as the leading horse in this division. He was narrowly denied here last year, before signing off with a neck victory at Aintree in a grade one. He would be a short-priced favourite on that form, but for a raid to France last month where he was well beaten. The seven-year-old will be fitter for the outing and if forgiven his blip on the continent, must be a big runner.

Thomas Darby will likely be held up and might be inconvenienced by a slow gallop. He did win a good race last time out at Newbury in the Gr2 Long Distance Hurdle, with the reopposing On The Blind Side and Paisley Park behind him.

The Irish raid with Ronald Pump who finished second to Lisnagar Oscar in the 2020 Stayers’ Hurdle. His seasonal return was a good effort when finishing well to be an eight length second to the great mare Honeysuckle in the Gr1 Hatton’s Grace last month.

That form could be the best on offer especially when you consider his main market rivals have questions to answer.

Thomas Darby is the big danger if he backs up his Newbury run, but Ronald Pump’s run behind Honeysuckle suggests another Gr1 prize will be heading back across the Irish Sea.

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