We are used to the likes of Nicky Henderson, Willie Mullins, Paul Nicholls and Gordon Elliott dominating the headlines at the Cheltenham Festival, but on Thursday we may see Emma Lavelle grab a share of the limelight as her star performer Paisley Park (2/1) is a warm favourite to land the feature Grade 1 Sun Racing Stayers’ Hurdle (3.30).
The seven-year-old gelding has made stunning progress this term winning all four starts, including a Grade 3 handicap hurdle at Haydock in November before stepping up to beat The West Approach by two lengths in the Grade 1 JLT Hurdle at Ascot in December.
Lavelle’s rising star then handed out an even more impressive beating to the same rival when scoring by 12 lengths in the Grade 2 Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham in January with the likes of Sam Spinner, Black Op, and Lil Rockefeller.
If he provides his popular handler and regular jockey Aidan Coleman with a feature winner at Cheltenham it could well raise the roof.
Willie Mullins’ former champion hurdler Faugheen (9/2) appears the main hope for the Irish as he bids for a remarkable Festival double over an extra mile. A victory for him would also bring the house down.
The Grade 1 Ryanair Chase (2.50) is the main supporting event on Thursday and Ireland hold a very strong hand with the likes of Footpad (4/1), Monalee (9/2), and Road To Respect (9/2) all holding powerful claims.
The best hope for a home victory appears to lie with Paul Nicholls’ rapidly improving Frodon (13/2), the mount of Bryony Frost.
The other Grade 1 event on the third day of the Cheltenham Festival is the opening JLT Novices’ Chase (1.30).
Philip Hobbs’ Defi De Seuil and Colin Tizzard’s Lostintranslation were first and second in the Grade 1 Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase at Sandown last month, separated by just three-quarters-of-a-length.
At 3/1 and 7/2 respectively punters appear to be finding it hard to make a clear choice once again.