Champ edges Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury

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The two 10-year-olds produced a thrilling finish in the three-mile contest, with the strong-travelling, front-running Champ just getting the better of the popular former Stayers' Hurdle winner, who powered home under Aidan Coleman, and was in front a stride or two after the line. Jonjo O'Neill Jr just had enough in the tank to thwart the Emma Lavelle-trained gelding as the pair were split by a neck, with the width of the track separating them. Paisley Park did not jump with great fluency over the last two as he ate into Champ's lead, while the Nicky Henderson-trained winner tied up towards the line. However, Paisley Park just ran out of real estate, much to the relief of the winning trainer, who told Racing TV: "They're good horses, but they are getting on a bit. Champ and Paisley Park have been around for quite some time, and they've been two genuine Grade One horses, so to come and fight out a race like that - I think anyone would enjoy it. "I thought we were beaten actually, but when we got the first replay we'd got it. Our old boy has won an RSA Chase over fences and everybody adores him. "He's got the most lovely character and he's such a sweet horse. AP (McCoy) rode him in a gallop here 10 days ago and he thought he was in great form, but he does have his ailments as well - he's a bit creaky, like all of us at that age. "His back isn't very good and that's why we've stayed hurdling over the last couple of years, only because fences put that little bit of extra pressure on it. "JP's (McManus, owner) team at Martinstown do a wonderful job, so he comes back to me in very good order at the beginning of every season and then it's up to me and you do have to mind him a little bit. "You could see we were travelling and Paisley Park was off the bridle, but you can never write him off. You can never read Paisley Park - he might stand still at the start and still come and beat you! "He's a bizarre character, but he's a phenomenal horse with a phenomenal team and I'm sure we're going to meet again in three weeks' time, so on it goes (in the Long Walk at Ascot)." Coleman was left naturally disappointed to be beaten so narrowly. He said: "It was a massive run, and you have to be happy with him, (but) it's annoying to get beat isn't it? "I thought I had him rolling and I wanted to keep away from Jonjo, only because he'd make the running and I thought if anything was going to get lonely in the straight, it would be something that been there the whole way. "My horse knew he was there and I thought I'd have one go and we might get him, but it didn't work out which is annoying." Despite having his colours lowered, Lavelle remained up-beat after Paisley Park's brave effort. She said: "It's brilliant. He's back and he's the most extraordinary horse, he really is. "I just kind of felt if we could have jumped one of the last two hurdles well it would have made the difference, but I take my hat off to Champ. They're two special 10-year-olds running races like that - it is really what National Hunt racing is all about. "I'm just very privileged, as are our whole team, to be able to train one of those horses. We're so proud of him. He's back for another season which is an unbelievable testament to him and to Barry (Fenton) riding him at home every day. "It's probably the best first run he's had for a couple of years and we'll take the same route. So long as he's all right after this, it will be the Long Walk, then it would be nice if he could make the Cleeve his own again and then on to Cheltenham (for the Stayers' Hurdle)."

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