Seven wins and counting – can anyone stop Paisley Park?

The story of Paisley Park’s rise is nothing short of remarkable and the fairytale of winning at Cheltenham Festival in last year’s Stayers’ Hurdle could well be surpassed as the eight-year-old looks favourite to return to the winner’s enclosure during this year’s meeting. The latest Cheltenham tips highlight Emma Lavelle’s dominant Irish thoroughbred as the overwhelming contender for the Stayers’ on March 12th – and after success on Trials Day in the Cleeve Hurdle for the second year running, who can stop him?

Just two years ago, Paisley Park suffered a life-threatening illness – colic – yet he’s come back fighting and gone on to achieve great things, including two Grade 1 wins. Owner Andrew Gemmell, a favourite amongst racing fans for his wicked sense of humour, has had his fair share of adversity too. Blind since birth, he has never seen a racehorse, yet certainly has a gem in Paisley Park – an absolute steal for Lavelle at £60,000 in 2015. Forever relying on radio commentary and racecourse tannoys for updates, he celebrated the latest victory at Prestbury Park by waving his white stick in admiration.

The fast-improving hurdler has won every race since Aidan Coleman has been in the saddle – from October 2018 in the Handicap Hurdle at Aintree, up until this most recent victory on Trials Day. The Irishman was delighted with the latest performance, saying afterwards: “He’s just brilliant; he’s gone round in second gear and he’s an absolute pleasure.

“Usually I get to the front way too soon, but today I got to the front at the last and I thought that was perfect.”

Paisley Park faced a stern challenge from his rivals and things didn’t always go his way. He didn’t win by a large margin – one-and-a-quarter lengths ahead of Summerville Boy, the winner of Cheltenham’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle two years ago – but he won in the only way he knows how. Jumping past Summerville Boy at the last, he got his head down, went into top gear and strode to victory.

The Trials are often a great indicator for predicting the upcoming hot favourites and those who plan on betting on 2020 Cheltenham Festival will undoubtedly keep Paisley Park in their sights. Last year, he went into the Stayers’ as the favourite and won in dramatic fashion. After being stuck in midfield from three out, he soon came into contention, moving into the lead with one to jump. He pulled away in the final 75 yards to win by two-and-three-quarter lengths.

In this year’s Stayers’, Paisley Park finds himself up against Summerville Boy once more, as well as Benie Des Dieux, who made a scintillating return at Gowran Park last month. The mare’s first race since May 2019 ended in victory in some style, 21 lengths ahead of Penhill, although it’s not yet confirmed whether she will just focus her attentions on the Mares’ Hurdle. While it’s too close to call between the current leading favourites, you have to expect that Paisley Park has enough in the tank to gallop to glory once again.

Trainer Lavelle is counting down the days to Cheltenham and had a word for his rivals: “The thing about him is that because he’s a three-miler people think he’s slow, but he’s far from it, he’s a quick horse as well. He’s just very special.

“We’re just ticking off the days now.”