The Long Walk Hurdle is one of the premier staying hurdle races of the British National Hunt horse racing season and is contested by the classiest hurdlers in training.
Long Walk Hurdle betting lists are nearly always dominated by horses that already contested the Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival or have aspirations to do so later in the season,
This Grade 1 feature of Ascot's two-day December meeting has been won on multiple occasions by star stayers like Baracouda, Big Buck’s and Reve de Sivola.
Paisley Park will join that elite group if he wins the race for a third time in 2021.
The most important trial for the Long Walk Hurdle is the Grade 1 Long Distance Hurdle which takes place at Newbury in November.
The 2021 Long Distance Hurdle was won by Thomas Darby who beat On The Blind Side by just over two lengths, with another eight lengths back to Paisley Park in third.
Thomas Darby was having just his third start over trips around three miles and there is no doubt that Olly Murphy’s charge is open to more improvement over staying trips and he has Grade 1 form in the book from his novice days, notably a second place in the 2019 Supreme Novices' Hurdle.
Paisley Park has won this race twice (2018 and 2020) but he’s been beaten in all four starts since the latter and his Long Distance Hurdle third was around a stone shy of his best form.
The Emma Lavelle-trained star stayer became the third horse to win the Long Walk having won the previous season’s Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival (Unowhatimeanharry and Big Buck’s the others) in 2020.
Philip Hobbs has yet to win the race but he came within a whisker of doing so when Thyme Hill was beaten by just a neck in 2020 and the same horse has a big chance of going one better in 2021 if anywhere near his best.
Nicky Henderson, represented by Buzz, Champ and On The Blind Side in 2021, has won the race once before - with Punchestowns in 2008.
Aidan Coleman and Tom Scudamore are joint winning-most current riders having both won it twice and the former has an opportunity to complete a hat-trick of wins aboard Paisley Park.
Current bookmaker odds - 7/4 Buzz, 5/2 Thyme Hill, 9/2 Champ, 5 Ronald Pump, 8 Paisley Park, Thomas Darby, 12 On The Blind Side, 20 Lisnagar Oscar, Third Wind, 25 Dans Le Vent, Indefatigable.
Buzz is a fascinating contender but he’s a very short price for a horse that has never been beyond two and a half miles before. He’s also not won a Grade 1 contest, something many previous winners of this race had done.
Champ, reverting back to hurdles after being pulled up before the seventh fence in the Gold Cup last time, will need to be cherry ripe to win this on his seasonal return while Ronald Pump just doesn’t win that often, for all that he has strong form.
At the prices, Thomas Darby looks each-way value at around 8/1 having finished with a flourish to win the Long Distance Hurdle and there could easily be more to come from him over staying trips. Last year's runner-up Thyme Hill was below par in France but he'll be a major threat if anywhere near his best.