For the 2020 renewal of this 3m hurdle contest, Paisley Park will attempt to repeat his winning performance from last season. In a race won four times by Big Bucks earlier this century, there will be opposition to the expected short-priced favourite with 2018 winner Penhill possibly hoping to regain his crown.
Since winning the 2019 version of this race, Paisley Park is unbeaten in two subsequent events including the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham during January. Both successes this term have been earned by less than two lengths as if he is doing just enough to win. The proof that he can accelerate from behind is still evident, but there have been suggestions that he could produce more if needed especially when finishing his last race with ears pricked. He is available at 8/13.
When winning the Cleeve Hurdle, Summerville Boy finished a close second and he could renew rivalry with the favourite. Trained by Tom George, the 8-year-old gelding beat Roksana when tried over 2m4f at Cheltenham during January after racing over two miles in two previous races. He is proving to be a versatile horse and beat third-placed horse Lisnagar Oscar by nearly four lengths when second to Paisley Park.
As for Penhill, he has failed to win in five outings since winning this race two years previously. Injury problems have curtailed his appearances but there was a sign of a slight return to form when second behind Cracking Smart in the Boyne Hurdle at Leopardstown. It may just be that the 9-year-old gelding is now more vulnerable to a faster finisher.
Among the other horses worth mentioning, Emitom won at Haydock last month in bottomless ground but he also has proven form in better conditions. That success during February was earned in a Grade 2 contest and he seemed to benefit from racing over three miles. However, he was well beaten in his only previous race at Cheltenham.
There could also be an appearance from City Island who won the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle last season. He has failed in three further outings but he has raced over the larger obstacles this term, and this longer trip over three miles may be more suitable and less demanding than chasing, with odds of 12/1 available.