Paisley Park is raring for a repeat title in The Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham Racecourse
Emma Lavelle, who has been no stranger to success in races at Cheltenham is now looking ahead to the 2020 Cheltenham Festival where Paisley Park will be looking to put his name front and centre for a second time.
The eight-year-old gelding will run in the galliardhomes.com Cleeve Hurdle on Cheltenham’s Festival Trials Day later this month as final preparation prior to a return to the Festival and the Stayers’ Hurdle in March. He missed out on last month’s Grade 1 Marsh Hurdle at Ascot Racecourse, extending the days since his last run by forty but Lavelle has no qualms over him being able to perform to the best of his ability.
He carried all last season, reigning victorious in five of five starts and came in as the 11/8 favourite in the G1 Stayers’ Hurdle. The race, worth £325,000 is the ultimate stamina test for hurdlers and run over 3 miles at the famous Prestbury Park. Paisley Park, who looked to be in trouble in the final furlongs produced his signature late surge to thrash the front-runner Sam Spinner and power home in a fairy-tale win.
Another victory in either the Stayers’ Hurdle or the Cleeve Hurdle would mark a second for Paisley Park, whose team are using the latter as a test for the three-mile headliner on St. Patricks Thursday of the Cheltenham Festival. The defending Stayers’ Hurdle champion is currently the hot favourite with betting firms for both races this season, though the stakes are much higher in 2020 as he jumps to keep back-to-back titles.
Lavelle has since stated in an interview with the Racing Post, that her stable star is in “great form and ready for action at Cheltenham. We’re very much looking forward to the Cleeve Hurdle.”
“He’s in great order and Newbury was only three weeks before Ascot so giving him that extra time has been great.”
If it wasn’t for patches of false ground, the eight-year-old would not have been withdrawn from the Marsh Hurdle at Ascot. There were heavy grounds in the build-up to the race and Lavelle thought it best not to take the risk, especially with the Cheltenham Festival being so close.
She told ITV, “there are false patches going down the hill, if it weren’t down the hill, we would view it differently.”
“It’s important that we do everything we can to get it right with him.”
“I don’t want to take that risk.”
— ITV Racing (@itvracing) December 21, 2019
Before lifting the crown in the 2019 Stayers’ Hurdle, Paisley Park had run in four races and punched out four victories. And whilst he’ll go into the Festival off a much lighter campaign in 2020, he’s on course for complete domination this Spring.
Last season he impressed above comprehension, breezing to a 12-length victory in the Cleeve Hurdle under jockey, Aidan Coleman. The pair delivered again at the Cheltenham Festival in March, charging around the field to land the Stayers’ Hurdle title. It was Paisley Park’s toughest challenge to date and a great win for Shropshire-born owner, Andrew Gemmell, who has been blind since birth.
The former shop steward, who bought the horse for £60,000 – which has proved to be a bargain – was delighted with the win and has not let being blind prevent him from the thrills of racing. He told the Jockey Club, “I love racing – the general environment, the thrills, the excitement. It is just different. It is a sport for blind people; it is very accessible because you can hear the commentary.”
There is a greatness about horse racing, with its ability to break down barriers and create special moments for all. For Gemmell, when the horses are thundering past, the vibrations in the ground allow him to soak in the race. That and the Cheltenham Roar that echoes into the wind.
Keep your eyes peeled for our blog on who to back at The Cheltenham Festival this year! As soon as all the runners are announced, you’ll be the first to know. Do you think Paisley Park will be crowned Stayers’ Hurdle Champion in 2020 too?