Tag Archive for: Andrew Gemmell

Gemmell eyeing Ascot and Cheltenham targets for Paisley Park

Popular staying hurdler Paisley Park will stay in training next season with the Long Walk and Cleeve Hurdles the aim, according to his owner Andrew Gemmell.

Thoughts of going novice chasing were put on hold last season because of the dry autumn, with the now 10-year-old preferring softer ground.

However, there are no plans to put him over fences going forward, as connections feel he retains plenty of ability and enthusiasm over hurdles.

Winner of the Stayers’ Hurdle in 2019, the Emma Lavelle-trained gelded son of Oscar finished third in the Grade One Long Walk at Ascot in December, bidding to win the race for a third time following victories in 2018 and 2020.

Paisley Park then won the Grade Two Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham for the third time before running a close-up third to Flooring Porter in the Stayers’ Hurdle.

Although a well-held fifth to Klassical Dream in the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers’ Hurdle at Punchestown, Gemmell feels there were excuses for the horse that has won over £600,000 in prize money.

Currently recovering after having a pacemaker fitted recently, Gemmell said: “I think what Ruby (Walsh) said before the race was right – there proved to be no pace in the race.

“He stayed on again, but I think the ground was plenty quick enough as well.

“Given the conditions, he still ran really well.

“He still retains plenty of enthusiasm, so we will keep going. Though he is hard to place and needs soft ground, I still think races like the Long Walk and the Cleeve are there, so we will see how we go. I would love to win the Cleeve again – that would be great!

“You can’t fault his run in the Stayers’, either. He was only beaten two and three-quarter lengths (in third).

“He is fine and has just gone out into the field now.”

Gemmell planning Cheltenham return for Paisley Park Stayers’ date

Andrew Gemmell expects both he and Paisley Park to have their confidence restored by the time they arrive at Cheltenham for the Stayers’ Hurdle.

The genial owner, who was born without eyesight, is a firm favourite with the racing public – much like Paisley Park who won the Stayers’ Hurdle in 2019, two years after recovering from a life-threatening bout of colic.

The Emma Lavelle-trained 10-year-old had finished third on three occasions this term before bouncing back to win the Grade One Cleeve Hurdle for a third time with a remarkable performance at Cheltenham last month.

Sadly, Gemmell was not there to witness it, as he was recovering from a heart operation.

Paisley Park, named after the late singer Prince’s home and recording studio, provided just the tonic for the recuperating former shop steward, who relies on radio commentaries and the racecourse announcer when his horses run.

Gemmell is intent on getting fighting fit for the Festival, where Paisley Park will be out to bely his current Betfred odds of 7-1 and land the Stayers’ Hurdle for a second time.

“I’m getting there,” said Gemmell. “I had to have a valve replacement, which I chose to do.

“Sadly, I missed the Cleeve, but I will be back in time for the Stayers’ Hurdle – I am sure I will.

Paisley Park (left) scored a dramatic victory at Cheltenham
Paisley Park (left) scored a dramatic victory at Cheltenham (David Davies/PA)

“I came out of hospital last Wednesday and I have a carer working with me now for a couple of weeks.

“I’ve had people to gradually help me get walking again, which has been difficult. My confidence was a bit low to start with, but I’ll be all right. I may in time have to have a pacemaker, but that is down the road.

“I intend, at the moment, to go to Cheltenham and while I will definitely miss Gold Cup day because it is bit too crowded, I will definitely do the Thursday and try to do one or two of the other days as well.”

West Ham fan Gemmell will party like its 1999 should Paisley Park do the unthinkable and land the three-mile Grade One event on March 17, three years removed from first doing so.

“I was so frustrated to miss the Cleeve. It is just one of those things. It was the first one I’ve missed, but it is what it is,” said the 69-year-old former local government officer.

Andrew Gemmell hopes Paisley Park's confidence is restored
Andrew Gemmell hopes Paisley Park’s confidence is restored (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Gemmell grew up in Shropshire with Scottish parents – his father Hugh from Ayrshire and his mother, Phoebe, a Glaswegian. They were GPs, and he boarded at the Royal National College for the Blind, near Shrewsbury.

There was no history of the disability in the family, yet his older brother was also born blind in what Gemmell calls “a freak of nature”.

Summer visits to York racecourse and a trip to the Scottish Grand National aged 12 sparked his interest in horse racing and it is a love that has endured.

Gemmell has been a frequent visitor to the Melbourne Cup, and his other adventures have included trips to the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in Paris, the Dubai World Cup and the Kentucky Derby.

Yet Cheltenham has brought him his biggest success as an owner, with Paisley Park leading the way.

“The plan is to go straight to Cheltenham,” added Gemmell, who also owns the Paul Nolan-trained Discorama in conjunction with Tom Friel, Irish landlord of the Plaistow pub, which is about a 20-minute walk from West Ham’s former Boleyn Ground home.

“The one thing we didn’t have last year was the Cleeve Hurdle, which got cancelled. There was a 12-week gap between Ascot and Cheltenham.

“But I think Paisley Park will run well. Yes, it is going to be really stiff, really tough, but he deserves to be in the shake-up now – he has to be.

“His confidence has been restored. Much like myself!”

Though Lavelle was keen to send Paisley Park over a fence at the start of the season, the dry autumn forced their hand to go back over hurdles.

Discorama could return to Aintree for the Grand National after finishing seventh last year
Discorama could return to Aintree for the Grand National after finishing seventh last year (David Davies/PA)

Gemmell is reluctant to put his pride and joy over bigger obstacles now.

He added: “Let’s wait and see. He will be 10 going on 11 next term and to be honest, I’m not keen on him going round in veterans’ chases and stuff like that. He doesn’t owe me that and I don’t want to do it.”

While Discorama could head to Aintree for the Grand National, after finishing a length runner-up at Fairyhouse on Wednesday, it seems that Paisley Park will duck the Aintree Stayers’ Hurdle.

Gemmell added: “Aintree last year, we felt didn’t particularly suit him, so we will have to have a think about it. We could go to Ireland, but we’ll see how he comes out of Cheltenham first.”

Monday Musings: Playing the Long (Distance) Game

Sometimes the story exceeds its components: the myth overcomes reality, writes Tony Stafford. For instance, how many Stayers Hurdles has the now ten-year-old Paisley Park won in his 20-race, ten-win hurdles career? Two, no three one’s mind wants to say. We’ve seen Andrew Gemmell, his owner, celebrate so many times. Sorry memory – and that went for me too just now until I checked – it’s just the one.

Yes, that day almost three years ago now when the Emma Lavelle-trained gelding sailed up the Cheltenham hill under Aidan Coleman clear of Sam Spinner and the rest to create a magical afternoon also charmed by victory on Frodon under Bryony Frost.

The owner, blind from birth but able to build quite a stable of horses having spent a successful career working in local government, has moved on notably also as a leading shareholder among the Barbary Lions in the champion Alan King-trained Flat-race stayer Trueshan. Andrew has enjoyed many wonderful days but Saturday’s third victory for Paisley Park in the Grade 1 Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham was very different as he was unable to be present.

At the time Paisley Park came up the hill to tumultuous cheers from the packed stands, his owner was in London Bridge Hospital recovering from surgery on a heart valve. He was intent on getting the surgery out of the way so he can be at the Festival.

As to the Stayers Hurdle, in 2020, sent off at 4-6 Paisley Park was only seventh behind Lisnagar Oscar – a well beaten third on Saturday in receipt of 6lb. Last year, again favourite, albeit at a more conservative 9-4, he was third, closest at the line behind the all-the-way, indeed runaway, Irish six-year-old Flooring Porter.

Coming into Saturday, the auguries for Paisley Park were far from bright. He now has a 12lb lower handicap mark – a relatively modest 157 – than after that Stayers Hurdle triumph in 2019. He had been third three times in succession in lead-up races at Wetherby, Newbury and Ascot, latterly in the Long Walk Hurdle, a Grade 1 race he had previously won, around five lengths behind Champ.

Re-opposing on identical terms, the last expectation was that he would revive old memories and many people were talking up the re-directed chaser Champ as the likeliest Stayers Hurdle winner, the Irish excepted and in some cases included. Indeed, such had been the impression created at Ascot by the J P McManus horse that the Irish were temporarily forgotten especially when Klassical Dream’s much-anticipated midweek trial for the Festival ended in a weak-finishing fourth.

Now, in the manner of racing and the best tradition of wishful thinking – I’m up there wishing with them all, too – we’re projecting a nice win in a five-runner race onto success in a 15-runner championship event.

“Look at all that ground he lost when turning around as the other quartet set off”, they say. Well, try that tactic on the big day and see where it gets you if Flooring Porter goes hell for leather again. It’s hoping to turn a potential deal-breaker into a positive. Saturday’s field was thin with only two of the five-horse field both in-form (Lisnagar Oscar certainly was not) and proven at the trip.

Paisley Park remains a wonderful stayer and his victory allowed all the outpourings of emotion that are commonly ceded to jump racing’s longest-serving heroes. We should take it as one more very welcome reminder of his talent rather that expect him to match or improve on it in six weeks’ time.  For his owner, just imagine how agonising it must be having to hear rather than see it happening. A remarkable man!

Earlier on the same Cheltenham card, we saw a very likely Festival winner in the shape of the Gordon Elliott-trained Pied Piper. The way this four-year-old by New Approach was followed vainly up the hill by his lesser rivals suggests his breeder, HM The Queen, was far-sighted in naming him.

Trained by the Gosdens, an easy win off 89 at Leicester in heavy ground on his last run before Tatts Horses In Training sale brought a final mark of 96 and a sale price of 225,000gns. I wonder whether Charlie Longsdon ever suggested to the powers that be that the owner-breeder might enjoy jumping him herself. Money talks, it seems, even in places maybe you’d think it would not!

If he shows up for the Triumph on the Friday of the Festival he will obviously take all the beating, such was the style of the win. Gordon Elliott also has unbeaten-in-three Fil Dor and the usual maybe we’ll go for the Supreme chat entered the equation briefly. You win the Supreme with a four-year-old, so what? Win the Triumph and if two have to go for it, needs must.

It’s not the same thing exactly, but I remember a few years back when Refinement was proving herself a top-class mare in long-distance hurdles, I asked Michael Tabor whether he would breed from her.

His answer: “How bloody old would I need to be before she has a runner?”. A home-bred foaled in 1999, Refinement won 13 of 33 races and more than £360k. Already the mother of four winners -  West Coast Time (2012), Meticulous (2014) and Risk Factor (2015) - all won in the blue and orange silks, but her most exciting prospect is a horse foaled when she was 18 years old.

That horse, Walking On Air, is trained by Nicky Henderson and is the first of the quartet to be sired by Walk In The Park, one of the star jumping stallions among the Coolmore NH team. If ever there was continuity of ownership and production, Walking On Air is it.

Walk In The Park, trained by John Hammond, was a home-bred of Tabor’s Irish and French Derby winner Montjeu, also trained by Hammond, an Englishman based in France who retired in the last couple of years.

Walk In The Park was runner-up in Motivator’s 2005 Derby as a big outsider and started his stud career in France standing at only €1,500. He immediately showed his propensity to produce winners and he was hastily finessed into the Coolmore nursery. Nobody – apart from anyone asking to send their mare – has ever been publicly aware of his fee. Betcha it’s a fair few Euros now!

But what a pedigree, and the way the Nicky Henderson-trained Walking On Air bolted up at Newbury on hurdles debut recently – in a similar manner to Pied Piper on Saturday – may finally make MT fully satisfied that his long-term and slightly unwilling project was worthwhile.

This column often descends into ageist talk and this week’s prime candidate for inclusion is one who made the century before his death last week. That worthy was Dick Duchossois, owner of Arlington Park racecourse in Chicago and founder of its Arlington Million.

I had one enjoyable evening at his posh estate outside the centre of Chicago when there to watch the race in the 1990’s. Arriving with festivities in full swing, I looked around for people I knew and recognised Michael Dickinson, by this time training in the US. Michael was holding forth to a table of admiring fans. As I approached, he called the table to order and said: “Meet Tony Stafford, a journalist from England. He taught me everything I know about handicapping!” As well as talking to me every night when he was still a jockey and returning back home after his sauna sessions, he was on to Colin Russell and Walter Glynn all the time, too. I never claimed a monopoly on the information, it was just me lucky enough to be there.

Michael and Joan Wakefield were at Newcastle racecourse the other night, obviously checking up on the well-being of the Tapeta surface he invented. He was chatting to Jim Goldie and Joanna Mason outside the weighing room when my pal Wilf Storey and daughter Stella came out with the colours bag after Joanna rode his horse.

Jim asked Michael if he knew Wilf, adding he’s the oldest trainer around. Michael said he did but Wilf corrected Goldie saying Joanna’s grand-father (Mick Easterby) is the oldest and Dai Burchill (to retire after a winner later in the week) was also older than him. Wilf said Michael looks as young as ever. He will be 72 on Thursday if you can believe that!

Talking of trainers packing up, it’s a great shame that Mick Quinn has called it a day after his big owner Kenny Bruce ended their relationship. Mick seemed to suggest that Bruce, a partner with his brother in Purple Bricks, who are now calling themselves in their advertising the biggest estate agency in the UK, might return some time in the future. Presumably when he can better afford it!

Mick trained a few horses for Raymond Tooth including Stanhope, a home-bred sprinter who won races before being sold to Ireland where he continued to do well. When he decided to hand in his licence, he gifted his two horses to the Northern Racing College.

One of them and the last to win him a prize was Great Hall, for his second in a Huntingdon hurdle race as an 11-year-old in October last year. A son of Halling, Great Hall was named on the way back from Manton to London as Ray and I were driven back by Steve Gilbey after Ray bought him from Brian Meehan.

He was a smart middle-distance horse who ran in the St Leger and won eight flat races and one hurdle.  He will be a wonderful schoolmaster. Mick’s colleagues on Talk Sport will be happy to welcome him back as he has more availability for punditry and commentaries, and he also looks forward to resuming his entertaining after dinner speaking.

A very nice family man, Mick Quinn is one of the most down-to-earth and cheerful of people. If he feels he didn’t get full reward for the 25 years of effort, generally with modest horses, often like with Great Hall in their declining days, he has helped make a day at the races very enjoyable for anyone he ever encountered.

- TS

Lavelle content with revised mark for Wincanton winner Killer Clown

It is not often a trainer is satisfied with revised handicap marks, but Emma Lavelle insists she is “happy” Killer Clown has been given a fighting chance after his wide-margin win at Wincanton on Saturday.

The eight-year-old gained the second chasing success of his career when landing a Class 2 handicap by nine and a half lengths under Tom Bellamy.

The Tim Syder-owned gelding is now up to a revised mark of 142, although any thoughts of a trip to the Cheltenham Festival are on the back burner for now.

Lavelle said: “Killer Clown went up 7lb which is fair enough and he seems to have come out of the race well, so that’s great.

“If he was very bright, we might look at Ascot (bet365 Handicap Chase on Saturday week), but at this stage I’m happy with where we are rating-wise and we will make some decisions in the next week.

“There is no point going to the well too often at this time of year.”

Although Killer Clown has taken time to blossom, the Ogbourne Maizey handler has always thought a lot of him and the key to his improved form has been the addition of a tongue tie.

Lavelle added: “He is a smasher, he really is. He has run well, but had not gone on as much as we had hoped and I think the tongue tie has made a big difference to him, because he definitely saw his race out well.

“He didn’t have to do too much on Saturday, but he did gallop out to the line and certainly on his work at home, it seems to have made difference to him.”

However, long-term targets may not include a trip to Prestbury Park.

“There are some nice two-and-a-half-mile handicaps in the spring, with some nice prizes to go with it. I don’t know that Cheltenham would be the right sort of place to go with him,” she added.

“As for Aintree, you are struggling on the Mildmay track for two-and-a-half-mile races with him and then you finish up looking at the Topham or something. I don’t know – we’ll see. There are options out there.”

Paisley Park will bid for a third Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham
Paisley Park will bid for a third Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham (Julian Herbert/PA)

Meanwhile, Lavelle is hoping the recent rain persists for former Stayers’ Hurdle winner Paisley Park, who is set to return to Cheltenham on Trials Day.

Having finished third in each of his three starts this season, Paisley Park is on course for an attempt to win the Grade Two Cleeve Hurdle for a third time, after victories in 2019 and 2020.

“Touch wood he is in great order and the Cleeve Hurdle is very much the plan,” confirmed Lavelle.

“He is on target for that and we are looking forward to it. Hopefully for him, anyway, the rain keeps coming, as that is what he needs – that proper test.”

Any plans to belatedly send the Andrew Gemmell-owned 10-year-old over fences were scuppered by a dry autumn and if all goes well, the Stayers’ Hurdle, which he won in 2019, is still the primary goal.

“I can’t say I’m that disappointed we are still over hurdles,” she added.

“I think that it was an option to go over fences and his run in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot was a good one on ground that really didn’t suit, and I’m really looking forward to seeing him run on proper soft ground and see where we are with him.”

Tom Bellamy confirmed for Paisley Park ride

Tom Bellamy will be keeping the saddle warm for suspended Aidan Coleman when Paisley Park lines up in his bid to win a third Howden Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot on Saturday.

The nine-year-old gave trainer Emma Lavelle the biggest win of her career to date when powering home to land the 2019 Stayers’ Hurdle under Coleman, who has partnered Paisley Park in his last 14 starts.

Coleman was handed a seven-day suspension and a £1,550 fine for overuse of the whip aboard Becher Chase winner Snow Leopardess at Aintree last Saturday.

The timing “is not ideal” according to Paisley Park’s owner, Andrew Gemmell, who said: “The stewards deemed to give Aidan a week. It seems a bit stiff.

“It is not ideal, but Tom has been riding very well and Aidan’s had lots of conversations with him, so I’m sure he will be fine.

“I would think that, long-term, he is still Aidan’s ride, for sure.”

Owner Andrew Gemmell (centre) says the Stayers' Hurdle is still the plan for Paisley Park
Owner Andrew Gemmell (centre) says the Stayers’ Hurdle is still the plan for Paisley Park (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Paisley Park will run minus the cheekpieces in the Grade One event, as Lavelle felt he slightly overraced when an 11-length third behind Thomas Darby in the  Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury last month.

The trainer has been toying with the idea of going chasing with Paisley Park, although a dry autumn may have put that option on the back burner.

Gemmell said: “While the rains have now come, in terms of going chasing, it is now very late in the season. Obviously, Saturday is important to see how he is progressing. It is a very strong field and let’s hope he puts his best foot forward. We’re hoping to win!

Paisley Park came from the clouds to win last year's Long Walk
Paisley Park came from the clouds to win last year’s Long Walk (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“At the moment, I would have to say that the Stayers’ Hurdle will be the plan of attack. Ascot on Saturday, then the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham, followed by the Stayers’ Hurdle is the most likely route forward.

“I think that cancelling the Cleeve Hurdle last year cost us in the Stayers’ Hurdle, as he was perhaps a little short, so it would be nice if they did run it this time.”

Speaking to Sky Sports Racing on Monday, Bellamy said he was “on cloud nine” after the “massive opportunity” to partner Paisley Park.

He added: “I’ve had a few goes on him since Aidan’s news came out – I hadn’t before that – I’ve ridden a piece of work on him and schooled him.

“He wouldn’t set the world alight at home – he’s a staying hurdler, of course he wouldn’t. But at the same time he struts about like he’s got a bit of class and he’s enjoyable to ride.”

Paisley Park set to aim for Long Walk Hurdle

Paisley Park may be kept over hurdles for the foreseeable future, according to owner Andrew Gemmell.

The then-seven-year-old gave trainer Emma Lavelle the biggest win of her career to date when landing the 2019 Stayers’ Hurdle.

And while Lavelle was considering the possibility of going chasing with the nine-year-old following Saturday’s Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury, where he finished 11 lengths third to Thomas Darby, connections are hopeful he may still have the ability to run over the smaller obstacles at the Cheltenham Festival.

Gemmell says Paisley Park is on course for the Howden Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot on December 18 and plans for a chasing debut are, for the time being, on hold.

He said: “Ascot is definitely in my thoughts, as he has won two of the last three Long Walk Hurdles and the only one he didn’t win was the one in 2019, where we pulled him out on the day because the ground was unsuitable.

“I think we have to go to Ascot and, in retrospect, we are not too disappointed with the run at Newbury.

“I know we made the pace, but the race didn’t fall the way we wanted it to.

“The ground was definitely quicker than we thought and I think he definitely needs softer ground than he got.

“The Long Walk may have a bigger field, there will be a truer pace and we have nothing to lose by going to Ascot now.

“We feel that he has run there twice, won there twice and so I think we have to go.”

Owner Andrew Gemmell celebrates Paisley Park's 2019 Stayers' Hurdle success
Owner Andrew Gemmell celebrates Paisley Park’s 2019 Stayers’ Hurdle success (Andrew Mathews/PA)

Though Paisley Park has won nine of his 18 starts over hurdles, he has not won since taking the Long Walk Hurdle last December and the owner feels that after victory at Ascot, things did not go according to plan.

While admitting plans remain fluid, despite Lavelle being keen to send Paisley Park chasing, Gemmell feels the lack of rain is somewhat forcing the Ogbourne Maizey handler’s hand.

He explained: “Certainly, with the idea about going chasing, with the ground the way it has been, being so firm, we haven’t had any opportunity to school, so that is on the back burner at the moment.

“If he runs relatively well, we will stay as we are. I think the Stayers’ Hurdle has to be the aim.

“Last year, I don’t think we were helped by the fact that the Cleeve Hurdle was cancelled and I think we were short of a run when we got to Cheltenham, and Aintree was totally unsuitable, as it came too soon after the Stayers’ and he was pulled up.

“In retrospect, we probably shouldn’t have gone to Aintree for the Liverpool Hurdle, but that’s the way it is.

“He seemed well in himself at the time and it was the only time he has really run like that. They are not machines after all.”

Paisley Park may return at Wetherby

Paisley Park may make his seasonal reappearance in the bet365 Hurdle at Wetherby this month.

Emma Lavelle’s stable star was the dominant force in the division in his pomp, and has the Stayers’ Hurdle at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival and two victories in the Long Walk at Ascot on his stellar CV.

The nine-year-old was found to be suffering from a fibrillating heart when defending his Stayers’ Hurdle crown in 2020, but bounced back last season to regain his Long Walk title before finishing third behind Flooring Porter at Cheltenham in March.

A final outing at Aintree’s Grand National meeting proved to be one too many, but owner Andrew Gemmell reports his pride and joy to be in rude health for the new campaign – so much so, that he has been pencilled in to run on the Charlie Hall Chase undercard on October 30.

Andrew Gemmell (left) with Paisley Park at Cheltenham
Andrew Gemmell (left) with Paisley Park at Cheltenham (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Gemmell said: “I saw him yesterday (Tuesday) actually, and he’s extremely well – everything looks good.

“I gave him lots of polos – and he seems to be really, really well.”

There had been some suggestion that Paisley Park might pursue a career over fences this season, but he looks set to remain over the smaller obstacles for the time being at least.

“I think at the moment we’re intending to start hurdling,” added Gemmell.

“He’s so well at the moment that we’re even considering going for the hurdle at Wetherby at the end of this month.

“We can see where we are and decide from there what we do.”

While very much looking forward to the jumps season proper getting under way, Gemmell has  also enjoyed a memorable campaign on the Flat thanks the exploits of Trueshan – of whom he is a part-owner.

Gemmell was at ParisLongchamp on Saturday to witness the Alan King-trained gelding add the Prix du Cadran to his Goodwood Cup success during the summer.

Connections plan to assess his well-being before deciding whether to allow him to bid for back-to-back wins the Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup at Ascot on Saturday week.

Reflecting on his victory over Stradivarius in Paris, Gemmell said: “It was exceptionally special.

“He’d obviously missed a couple of races. Missing the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot was disappointing, given the ground the following day would have been perfect after the rain came, and then he had to miss the Lonsdale Cup at York and the Doncaster Cup.

“It was nice to get it right this time. For him to beat Stradivarius by four and a half lengths was pretty impressive, really.

“We’ll wait and see how he is on Monday and see whether to head to Ascot. If not, there’s the Prix Royal-Oak the following week.”

Gemmell revelling in Goodwood Cup glory with Trueshan

Prominent owner Andrew Gemmell is still on cloud nine after Trueshan provided him with further big-race success in last week’s Al Shaqab Goodwood Cup.

Gemmell, who has been blind since birth, is best known as the sole owner of Emma Lavelle’s top-class jumper Paisley Park, who brought the house down at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival when landing the Stayers’ Hurdle.

But he has also has also been involved with several Flat horses, notably purchasing shares in Ed Dunlop’s Trip To Paris after he won the 2015 Ascot Gold Cup and subsequently travelling to Australia to witness him finishing second in the Caulfield Cup later that year.

Gemmell, who has experienced some of the world’s greatest sporting occasions having travelled the globe to follow England’s cricketers, attended the Australian Open and in racing the Melbourne Cup and Kentucky Derby, admits victory at Goodwood was pretty special.

He said: “I couldn’t believe it – it was brilliant.

“Stradivarius and Spanish Mission coming out ramped up the pressure massively, but it was a wonderful day.

“The Cheltenham Festival and Glorious Goodwood are both great festivals and to win a Goodwood Cup was just fantastic.

“I had a second in the Caulfield Cup with Trip To Paris, but this would be my biggest winner on the Flat.”

Gemmell and other members of the Singula Partnership that own the Alan King-trained five-year-old are now looking forward to bidding for further staying honours at either York or Doncaster.

“Onwards to either the Lonsdale Cup or the Doncaster Cup, hopefully,” Gemmell added.

“The ground will be important, of course. I think he can go on good ground, but if there’s any firm in the going then he won’t be running.

“It was great for him to win the other day after missing the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot. The weather just conspired us against us, unfortunately – the rain came during the last race on the Thursday, which was no use to us.

“If the Gold Cup had been run on the Friday we’d have been there with a big shout.”

Andrew Gemmell with Paisley Park at Cheltenham
Andrew Gemmell with Paisley Park at Cheltenham (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Gemmell also provided an upbeat report on Paisley Park, who finished third when bidding to regain his crown in the Stayers’ Hurdle in March before being pulled up at Aintree.

He said: “Paisley is back (in training) and I’m looking forward to the jumps season as well. I always think with the jumpers, it’s like seeing a lot of your old mates coming back again.

“I think Aintree just came a bit too soon after Cheltenham and the course didn’t really suit him.

“Everything is grand with the horse. We’ll see this season what we do. I would think we’ll head down the same route.”

Paisley Park ‘as good as ever’, says proud owner Andrew Gemmell

Andrew Gemmell is counting down the days to the Cheltenham Festival as his beloved Paisley Park prepares to line up for a third Cleeve Hurdle.

The nine-year-old has won the race for the past two seasons, using it as a springboard to the ultimate prize for horses in his division, the Stayers’ Hurdle.

Paisley Park was a hugely popular winner of the latter race in 2019 – a victory that was made particularly moving by the joy and passion shown by Gemmell, who was born blind and follows his runners via the race commentary alone.

A 2020 title defence was not successful, however, as the Emma Lavelle-trained gelding could only finish seventh when 4-6 favourite and was later found to be suffering from an irregular heartbeat.

Thankfully Paisley Park went on to make a full recovery, as well-evidenced by his two gallant efforts this season; a runner-up spot behind Thyme Hill in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury on his first run back and a scintillating last-gasp victory over the same horse in Ascot’s Long Walk Hurdle in December.

Despite the limitations now imposed on owners attending the races, that performance fell at a time when connections could access the racetrack and Gemmell was thrilled to be there as his horse resumed winning ways.

“The race at Newbury, I got more nervous about that than any of the previous races,” he said in a call hosted by Great British Racing.

“Obviously we didn’t know, after the difficulties with the heart, how good he’d be, but he ran such a cracking race behind Thyme Hill.

“It was just such a relief to know he was back in full order again and then to win the Long Walk was truly astonishing.

“It was really terrific, that race against Thyme Hill at Ascot.

Aidan Coleman and Paisley Park (right) on their way to reeling in Thyme Hill
Aidan Coleman and Paisley Park (right) on their way to reeling in Thyme Hill (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“I think the enthusiasm was really brought to the boil by the race at Ascot, and Simon Holt’s commentary when he got him right at the end was brilliant.”

Like all parties bar a few key industry personnel, Gemmell is now unable to be on a racecourse and is resigned to following the action via the television coverage this weekend.

Victory would be an important stepping-stone to the prize connections covet the most, the retrieval of his Stayers’ Hurdle crown.

“Everything’s been going to plan, which is really exciting,” Gemmell said.

“Everyone’s been saying he’s been doing brilliant pieces of work and it’s all going well, everything’s on course.

“It’s the ideal time span, six weeks from one race (Ascot) to the other (Cleeve Hurdle), six weeks to the next (the Festival). We just can’t wait to get going again.

“I think he’s as good as ever, I just can’t wait for the big day.”

Andrew Gemmell (centre) celebrates Cheltenham Festival glory
Andrew Gemmell (centre) celebrates Cheltenham Festival glory (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Gemmell and his favourite horse have become one of the sport’s most endearing tales, and it is a team trainer Lavelle is grateful to be a part of.

“He’s created a huge interest and deservedly so, he’s a very special horse,” she said of her stable star.

“I can’t believe that I’m saying this live, but Andrew’s a pretty special bloke as well – it’s lovely to have this involvement with them.

“I think the only thing that Paisley’s disappointed about is that with Andrew not coming down, it means that he’s definitely having a reduced load of polos every day!”

Paisley Parks looks the horse to beat, and a triumph will surely elevate his owner’s Cheltenham Festival fever even further.

“It’s everything, really,” he said.

“You’ve got something really exciting and it’s at the end of the rainbow.

“I just can’t wait for it to happen again, the more we’ve gone on, the more excited I get just thinking about it.

“We could be there again and hopefully regain the title.”