There were emotional scenes in the winner’s enclosure on day three of the Cheltenham Festival when Paisley Park justified favouritism to land the Grade One Sun Racing Stayers’ Hurdle.
For owner Andrew Gemmell, who has been blind since birth, and trainer Emma Lavelle, Paisley Park — under Aidan Coleman — displayed his impressive turn of foot to take the lead approaching the final flight. Despite an untidy jump at the last, the seven-year-old son of Oscar ran on willingly for his jockey’s urgings to score by two-and-three-quarter lengths.
“This is a real dream for me, I cannot believe it has happened,” said Andrew. “I still had hopes [during the race] because we know that is the way Paisley Park runs. I hope this is the first of many because I will keep coming back. We are so chuffed and we’re all in tears.”
Paisley Park runs in the colours of Andrew’s football team, West Ham United, and is named after the American estate owned by the late singer Prince — Andrew’s favourite musician.
He added: “Paisley Park is a bit like Big Buck’s and Baracouda in that he does hit a flat spot, but he keeps finding. It was a scary moment when he made a mistake at the last.
“This has been a brilliant journey and I have enjoyed it all the way. I’ve been to Cheltenham for years and years — it is just something else to be in the winner’s enclosure.
Emma Lavelle waited 20 years for a first top-level win and it came courtesy of Paisley Park in the Grade One Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot in December. She had less than three months to wait for a second with the same horse, and this time it was even better.
“It’s different gravy,” she said. “It’s just a different level and it’s phenomenal for everyone. Watching the race we wondered if he was too far out of his ground, but Aidan knew what he had and said he still got there too soon. These real true stayers need to travel off the bridle and then they need to find it when asked. That’s what he’s done. He’s had a proper race today and I’m so proud of him.”
The winning jockey has had to wait 10 years for a second winner at the Festival — Kayf Aramis was his first in the 2009 Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle. But Paisley Park’s thrilling victory in the £325,000 feature race today was worth the wait.
“I don’t know what I was thinking coming here today, but I could not see Paisley Park getting beat,” said Aidan. “I have not really had these winners at the Festivals so I thought I better calm down a bit and enjoy the day.
“Emma told me to enjoy myself and said: ‘You know the horse, so I am not going to tell you what to do’”.
Bryony Frost and Lizzie Kelly flew the flag for the lady jockeys today, each picking up a Festival win on day three.
Bryony returned to a huge reception after making Cheltenham Festival history as the first female rider ever to win a top-level race at the meeting aboard the Paul Nicholls-trained Frodon in a hot Grade One Ryanair Chase.
“He is the perfection of determination,” she said. “Look at what he has done there and tell me he does not love racing — he is unbelievable. The dream he has just made come true for me is just incredible. He deserves every single pat, carrot and polo. This is his day.”
Lizzie teamed up with the Nick Williams-trained Siruh Du Lac to win the Grade Three Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase.
Don’t miss the full report from the Cheltenham Festival in the 21 March issue of Horse & Hound, plus read daily round-ups online.