Paisley Park Has a Point to Prove

Welcome to Gavin Beech's weekly racing column for A veteran racing journalist, Gavin provides his opinion on the latest talking points across flat and jump racing.

Paisley Park Has a Point to Prove

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I'm Struggling to get Excited About Luxembourg

I don’t know about you, but I’m struggling to get excited about Luxembourg’s prospects of playing a starring role as a 3-year-old next season.

The unbeaten son of Camelot was shortened for both the 2,000 Guineas and Derby after coming home a length-and-three-quarters ahead of Sissoko in Saturday’s Vertem Futurity Trophy at Doncaster.

On the face of it, Ballydoyle have a really smart racehorse on their hands - he’s already a Group 1 winner after all, but is he a star?

I’m usually wrong about these things but Luxembourg doesn’t look fast enough to win a 2,000 Guineas or straightforward enough to win a derby.

Aidan O’Brien has been complimentary about the colt’s work over four furlongs at Ballydoyle and there appears to be little doubt that they think he’s quick enough to win a Guineas but a final-furlong sectional of 12.99sec off a relatively steady early gallop in the Vertem Futurity is hardly earth shattering - he wasn’t even the quickest horse in the race through that section.

Of course, he might not have enjoyed the soft ground and he may well have been idling in front, both of which are distinctly possible. It could just be, though, that he’s actually not that quick. I wouldn't be at all confident he has the speed to cope with a horse like Native Trail.

And then there is the issue of his demeanour. It would be harsh (and inaccurate) to accuse this horse of having a worryingly high head carriage but at the same time he does have a slightly ungainly way of going about his business and we can’t just assume that is down to greenness.

Let’s see how he does over the winter but on what we’ve seen so far, he doesn’t strike me as an obvious candidate to handle the unique demands of Epsom, a track that finds out even the slightest chink in any horse’s armour.

There can’t be many punters tempted by online betting sites 5/2 about Luxembourg winning the derby in May, especially when you look at the recent history of favourites in the race.

Four of the last five derby winners went off 16/1 or bigger on the day and Aidan O’Brien’s derby winners have tended to be sired by Galileo (Wings of Eagles aside) so playing at the top of the market at this stage doesn’t make much appeal.

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Stradivarius Still Thriving at Clarehaven Stables

Stradivarius has been one heck of a horse. Three Gold Cups, seven Group 1’s in all, and over £3million in prize money.

He’s not quite the horse he was but he doesn’t owe connections and the sport of racing a bean. The easy decision for connections then, would have been to retire the 7-year-old.

Owner Bjorn Nielsen and trainer’s John and Thady Gosden have decided that Stradivarius retains sufficient enthusiasm to race on for one last season. That enthusiasm reflects wonderfully on the mindset of the horse but also his training regime at Clarehaven Stables.

Stradivarius hasn’t been able to add to his Group 1-winning tally in 2021 but he’s won three group races, finished third in a Gold Cup, second in a Prix du Cadran and third in a Long Distance Cup so he is quite clearly still operating to a very high level in the staying division.

He's got his work cut out but Stradivarius reclaiming his Gold Cup crown in the summer would guarantee to bring the Royal Ascot house down.

Paisley Park Has Doubters to Silence

From a star of the Flat to one of the favourites of the jumps game.

Paisley Park is a firm favourite of the tweed brigade but which version of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival Stayers Hurdle winner are we likely to see at Wetherby on Saturday?

The 9-year-old looks set for his first ever trip to the West Yorkshire venue where he will line up in the Grade 2 bet365 Hurdle on Charlie Hall Chase day.

Paisley Park hasn’t managed to match his peak 2019 form ever since, despite winning the Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot last season, but he’s a real conundrum for punters given what happened to him at Aintree when last seen.

That Ryanair Stayers Hurdle was Paisley Park’s 17th race and the first in which he has failed to finish. Connections were unable to offer any explanation for the inexplicably poor performance while a subsequent post-race examination failed to reveal any abnormalities.

Paisley Park has had a terrific career but it’s hard to know exactly where we are with him now and although he has a strong overall record first-time up, he was beaten by Thyme Hill on last season’s return and there must be a good chance that his advancing years mean that he tends to need his first run a bit more than he used to.

Paisley Park is going to have to run to near his best if he’s going to concede 6lb to a horse like Thomas Derby, who has potential as a stayer this year having seen out the 3m+ well when third in the aforementioned Ryanair Stayers Hurdle at Aintree, his first try at that sort of trip.

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And finally….Here’s a Winner for the Weekend…

Progressive 3-year-old’s have won the last two editions of Newmarket’s James Seymour Stakes and Bay Bridge could complete the hat-trick for that age group should he be allowed to take his chance by Sir Michael Stoute on Saturday.

Bay Bridge looks a group horse in the making after winning a York handicap in fairly useful style off a mark of 105 on just his fifth career start, while his trainer has saddled two winners, a second and a third from his last four runners.

The improving son of New Bay stays ten furlongs really well so the stiff Rowley Mile finish will play to his strengths and he looks well up to winning this Listed contest before being put away for what promises to be a big 2022 for this colt.

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