Paisley Park with trainer, Emma Lavelle

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 2021 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 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 to come in as the 11/8 favourite in the G1 Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham Racecourse. The race, worth £325,000 is the ultimate stamina test for hurdlers, 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If it wasn’t for patches of false ground, the eight-year-old would not have been withdrawn from the Marsh Hurdle at Ascot.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.”

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.

Paisley Park, who nearly died after falling terribly ill a couple of years ago has a fighting spirit and trainer, Lavelle believes he has more in his charge yet. It is no wonder that both owner and trainer have pictured him winning one of the Blue riband races at the Cheltenham Festival. Could we be witnessing another legend in the making?

Gemmell’s horse, who has been reported to be “fresh and buzzing” ahead of the 2020 Cheltenham Festival Trials has proven time and time again that he possesses the power to extend his winning run to seven. The extra rest that he’s had after pulling out of Ascot may in fact be beneficial as for much of the season last year the grounds were good, so if there is soft ground this season, Paisley Park may be able to dig a little deeper than the rest.

Lavelle quite rightly asserted that: “Racing on very soft ground takes a lot more out of the horses and so accordingly if we miss one race at this stage of the season when you’re on the worst of the ground you pick up another one later on.”

A lethargic horse running on any ground, never mind soft ground is more than likely to run a race below par.

Paisley Park has quickly established a name for himself and is now looked at as a potentially commanding figure, especially following his freakish win in last years Cleeve Hurdle’s. He’ll surely add his name to the Hall of Fame at Cheltenham Racecourse if he continues with his high stead.

Paisley Park with trainer, Emma Lavelle

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?

Interested in attending the Cheltenham Festival 2021? Let us know below.