Hobbs hopeful ahead of Thyme Hill trilogy with Paisley Park

Philip Hobbs feels youth will be on Thyme Hill’s side when the seven-year-old bids to exact revenge on Paisley Park in the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Paisley Park collared Thyme Hill in the closing strides to claim the Long Walk Hurdle by a neck at Ascot in December, when the pair met at level weights.

That made the score between them one each as Thyme Hill had beaten Emma Lavelle’s nine-year-old by one and a half lengths at Newbury the previous month, in receipt of 3lb.

“You’d have to say Paisley Park didn’t have the best of runs and he did well to win the race, but Thyme Hill ran an extremely good race and hopefully he is still an improver. That would be the plus,” Hobbs told Sky Sports Racing.

“He’s not had that much racing and our biggest hope really is he could still be an improver and is still going in the right direction, whereas Paisley Park you imagine at his age shouldn’t be.

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“He (Paisley Park) is a formidable horse and is not going to be easy to beat whatever happens.

“Thyme Hill was particularly well this (Wednesday) morning. Having a canter, he had a buck at the top of the gallop and is in really good nick. We are at the stage of thinking about a few gallops to wind him up before Cheltenham.

“He’s not a horse that needs a lot of work anyway. We’re very much looking forward to it.”

Whatever the going at Cheltenham would not worry the Minehead trainer.

“I don’t think the ground really matters to him,” he said.

“I suppose you probably don’t want heavy. Anything else would be fine and he is the kind of horse who could cope with quick ground. The ground is the least important thing.”

Hobbs has named the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase (formerly the RSA) over an extended three miles as Sporting John’s likely Cheltenham target, following his Grade One triumph at Sandown on Saturday.

The two-and-a-half-mile Marsh Novices’ Chase would be second choice, with Hobbs all but ruling the Sporting Life Arkle Trophy over two miles.

“He’s in the Festival Novices’ Chase. I think we can probably discard the Arkle with it being two miles, but he’s in the three-mile race which is more likely to suit him on the likely better ground,” he said.

“If it was soft at Cheltenham you might consider the Marsh, but I’d say the Festival Novices’ Chase is more likely.”

Sporting John booked his place at the Festival when landing a first success over fences in the Scilly Novices’ Chase, after being beaten at odds-on on his only other start over the bigger obstacles at Exeter in November.

“We were delighted with him. At his best, he is very good,” said Hobbs.

“He’s a most lovely-looking horse and has also got a fantastic temperament. He’s just a really nice horse to have about.

“He’s had the six races. He obviously won’t run again before Cheltenham. I feel he’s probably got enough experience. If we’d been able to run him through the winter and he’d had another run that would be better, but I think he has enough experience and he’d have learnt a lot from Sandown the other day.

“It’s going to be the most important novice chase of the season, so why not?”

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