Tag Archive for: Paisley Park

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.”

Paisley Park makes Irish bow in Punchestown feature

Emma Lavelle’s Paisley Park will compete away from home turf for the first time when he contests the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle at Punchestown on Thursday.

The 10-year-old is a regular in top-class staying hurdles and took the ultimate prize in the division when landing the Cheltenham Festival Stayers’ Hurdle in 2019.

A heart issue derailed his title defence the next year but in 2021 he finished a five-length third in the race to Flooring Porter and this time around he was beaten two and three-quarter lengths when third again to the same horse.

The pace with which Paisley Park galloped up the hill at Cheltenham and his upward trajectory this season have persuaded connections not to bring his season to a close and he will make his first start on Irish turf on Thursday.

“It’s something we haven’t tried before, but he’s certainly in good order and we’re looking forward to running him at Punchestown,” Lavelle said.

Emma Lavelle's Paisley Park
Emma Lavelle’s Paisley Park (Simon Cooper/PA)

“I think Cheltenham is a track that suits him really well because of the stiff finish and he’s had a good year. He was third in the Long Walk and he won the Cleeve again and we were delighted with how he ran in the Stayers’.

“It was a brilliant ride on Flooring Porter when (Danny Mullins) slowed the field down the hill. It stops Paisley Park’s momentum and it takes him a long time to get back going again. It was just one of those things and was his usual, genuine, staying finish.

“I think Punchestown, which is a big, galloping track, should suit him. He seems in really good shape, so we’ll see what happens.”

Willie Mullins’ Klassical Dream was a nine-length winner of this race last season and returns to the track to bid for a ninth success in the race for his trainer.

The gelding was also last seen in the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham having started as the 11-4 favourite, but he and Paul Townend were not afforded the most competitive start and were ultimately beaten into fifth place.

Klassical Dream winning the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown
Klassical Dream winning the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown (Donall Farmer/PA)

Patrick Mullins, the trainer’s son and assistant, said: “We got the good start in Leopardstown and (at Cheltenham) Klassical started backing up and Paul ended up jumping off last and we are 10 lengths behind Flooring Porter straight away, so that was just the swing.

“I was a little bit disappointed with how weakly he finished. He travelled up there very well but I don’t think that was him at his best and I’d be disappointed if he couldn’t win at Punchestown.”

Gavin Cromwell’s Vanillier will return to hurdles after spending his campaign thus far jumping fences.

The grey was a high quality novice hurdler and took the Grade One Albert Bartlett by a comfortable 11 lengths at Cheltenham last season.

Vanillier winning the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle
Vanillier winning the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (Tim Goode/PA)

His progression to chasing saw his finish third on his debut over fences and go on to land a four-runner renewal of the Florida Pearl, but his jumping left something to be desired in the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham last time out and has prompted Cromwell to return to the smaller obstacles at Punchestown.

“His work is good and his jumping was just terrible in Cheltenham, so we’re reverting back to hurdles and hoping that will work,” he said.

“He was a good novice hurdler last year, so we’ll see how we go.”

Elsewhere in the race is Gordon Elliott’s Sire Du Berlais, a winner last time out when defeating Flooring Porter to land the Liverpool Hurdle at Aintree’s Grand National meeting.

He is owned by JP McManus and is one of two horses to run in his silks in the race, with Noel Meade’s Thedevilscoachman looking to follow up a Grade Two success in the Boyne Hurdle.

Ashdale Bob was the runner-up on that occasion and represents Jessica Harrington at Punchestown, with Mouse Morris’ Gentlemansgame and Mullins’ Concertista completing the field of eight.

Paisley Park set for Punchestown assignment

Paisley Park will skip Aintree in favour of a first trip to Ireland for the Grade One Champion Stayers Hurdle at next month’s Punchestown Festival.

The Emma Lavelle-trained 10-year-old ran a fine race in the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham on Thursday, finishing third to Flooring Porter and Thyme Hill in a bid to regain the crown he claimed in 2019, being beaten a nose for second.

Lavelle said: “Paisley is absolutely perfect, I just wish he’d had a longer nose. As things stand we would like to go to Punchestown with him.

“Andrew (Gemmell, owner) is keen to go, and I think he will cope with the track there better.

“At Aintree everything happens very quickly, and we are agreed that in Ireland it should be more suitable.”

One of the most popular horses in training, Paisley Park had returned to winning ways at Cheltenham in January when taking the Cleeve Hurdle for the third time – an extraordinary performance as he had lost many lengths at the start when Aidan Coleman had to coax him to set off.

Paisley Park primed to take back Stayers’ title

Paisley Park bids to defy the odds and become the first horse since Inglis Drever to regain the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham on Thursday.

An eventual three-time winner, Inglis Drever’s title defence was scuppered by injury in 2006, but he returned a year later to take back the crown and Paisley Park will be looking for a similar redemption three years after his victory.

He was only seventh behind Lisnagar Oscar when sent off the 4-6 favourite in 2020 and was third to Flooring Porter last year as the 9-4 market leader.

It looked at one stage as though Emma Lavelle’s stable star might be a spent force, but he proved his critics wrong when recovering from giving his rivals many lengths start to win the Cleeve Hurdle over the course and distance in January.

“He’s been exactly where we want him to be and he’s done everything right at home, so we’re just keeping our fingers crossed,” said Lavelle.

“Aidan (Coleman) has been in to school him and we were very pleased with him. He’s back at a track we know he loves and in front of a crowd this time, which is a bonus.

“His last run showed he has the ability still, it’s a competitive race of course but he’s at his best at Cheltenham and we’re looking forward to it.”

Gavin Cromwell reports Flooring Porter to be in fine form as he bids to retain his title. Flooring Porter made all when the meeting was staged behind closed doors due to restrictions caused by the pandemic.

“He’s good, we’re happy with him. He’s been here for a couple of days now and he’s settled in nicely. He seems in good nick,” said the County Meath trainer.

Flooring Porter gallops up the hill to win the Stayers' Hurdle last year
Flooring Porter gallops up the hill to win the Stayers’ Hurdle last year (David Davies/Jockey Club)

“It’s going to be a little different with the crowds here this year but I think he’s grown up, so hopefully it won’t be a problem.”

Philip Hobbs is hoping Thyme Hill can make amends for missing the race 12 months ago with a pulled muscle.

The eight-year-old showed he would have been a major player as he went on to win the Liverpool Hurdle at Aintree four weeks later. He has been lightly-campaigned this term with this race the objective.

“We said a long time ago he wouldn’t run after the Long Walk at Ascot, so we’ve had a long time to prepare him for this and he’s in as good a condition as we could have hoped,” said Hobbs.

Champ looked like taking the staying hurdle division by storm when beating Thyme Hill in the Long Walk in December but he failed to land the odds when beaten by Paisley Park in the Cleeve.

Trainer Nicky Henderson is optimistic of a better run from the 10-year-old, who won the RSA Chase at the 2020 Festival. He was switched back to hurdles after a poor run in the Gold Cup last year.

“He was maybe a little underwhelming on Trials Day. I didn’t think he jumped quite as well as he did at Ascot. He did little wrong. Full credit to Emma (Lavelle) and her team to get that horse (Paisley Park) back, especially when he gave us a 20-length head start,” said Henderson.

“If I can get him back to where he was at Ascot, and I think he can, he has got to be thereabouts. He wasn’t as sharp as he was at Ascot. Ascot was his first run in quite a long time as he didn’t really have a race in the Gold Cup, so actually his last real race was the Game Spirit at Newbury last season.

“He might have bounced a little bit but he was a better horse at Ascot than he was on Trials Day.”

Willie Mullins feels Klassical Dream can bounce back from a disappointing performance last time when he was only fourth to Royal Kahala in the Galmoy Hurdle at Gowran Park.

Mullins blames himself for the defeat which came a month after his all-the-way win in the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown, when he defeated Flooring Porter by two lengths after getting a flying start.

Klassical Dream beat Flooring Porter at Christmas
Klassical Dream beat Flooring Porter at Christmas (Donall Farmer/PA)

“It was probably my own fault the last day. I fell into the trap of going into that hurdle race after giving him a break after Christmas and thought he should be fit enough,” said Mullins.

“I probably hadn’t enough done with him. The race wasn’t on my agenda, but it looked like it could be there for the taking and it was next door – if it was at Navan or Down Royal I wouldn’t even have entered him.

“He’s had a bit of problems, but he’s in good shape at the moment.

“He was very good at Christmas. He can be a bit tricky at the start, but if he can get there and get through the start, he has a big chance I think.”

Klassical Dream won the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2019 on his only previous run at Cheltenham.

Flooring Porter takes on nine in Stayers’ Hurdle defence

Last year’s hero Flooring Porter is one of three previous winners in a field of 10 of the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham on Thursday.

Gavin Cromwell’s seven-year-old is winless since making all the running in front of an empty grandstand 12 months ago but is likely to go off favourite to defend his crown.

Emma Lavelle’s Paisley Park will surely raise the roof should he regain the title he last won in 2019.

His best days were seemingly behind him when he was beaten three times earlier in the season, but he produced a remarkable performance last time out in the Cleeve Hurdle.

Having whipped round at the start, he lost many lengths but was still able to get back into contention and win.

Lisnagar Oscar was a 50-1 winner in 2020 for Rebecca Curtis and was running well in the race last year when falling. This year his jockey Adam Wedge is sporting blue and yellow silks in support of Ukraine.

A major fancy for Willie Mullins is Klassical Dream, a Cheltenham Festival winner in the Supreme in 2019.

He was off for almost 500 days before returning to win at Punchestown last season and was also successful at Leopardstown over Christmas, but he was surprisingly beaten in the Galmoy Hurdle when last seen.

Champ beat Thyme Hill in the Long Walk Hurdle
Champ beat Thyme Hill in the Long Walk Hurdle (Nigel French/PA)

Nicky Henderson’s Champ won the Long Walk on his return to hurdles but was behind Paisley Park after that in the Cleeve, while Philip Hobbs’ Thyme Hill is another with top-class form to his name.

Peter Fahey’s Royal Kahala, winner of the Galmoy, runs in this in preference to the Mares’ Hurdle.

Home By The Lee, Koshari and Song For Someone complete the field.

Flooring Porter back to defend Stayers’ Hurdle title

Three previous winners are among 13 confirmations for the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham next Thursday.

Last year’s hero Flooring Porter, shock 2020 scorer Lisnagar Oscar and the popular Paisley Park will all be aiming to join an illustrious list of multiple winners that includes Big Buck’s, Inglis Drever and Baracouda.

Willie Mullins’ Klassical Dream, winner of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2019, needs to bounce back from a disappointing run in the Galmoy Hurdle which was won by Royal Kahala, and the two are on course to meet again.

Nicky Henderson’s Champ and Philip Hobbs’ Thyme Hill, first and second in the Long Walk at Ascot, and Tom Symonds’ Song For Someone are also engaged.

Champ and Jonjo O'Neil jnr celebrate victory in the Long Walk Hurdle
Champ and Jonjo O’Neil jnr celebrate victory in the Long Walk Hurdle (Nigel French/PA)

“It’s a bit of a leap of faith in terms of trip, but he has won over basically two-mile-four at Ascot. We’ll give it, go but it is very much a fact-finding mission,” said Symonds.

“It’s not ideal on such a big stage, but there’s nothing for him in the immediate future so we thought we’d give it a go and see how he gets on.”

One name absent was Sporting John, who misses the meeting with a setback.

Allaho stands tall as he aims to repeat last year’s impressive win in the Ryanair Chase, for which there are 14 possibles.

Mullins has also left in Energumene and Chacun Pour Soi along with Asterion Forlonge, Janadil and Melon.

Allaho was magnificent in last year's Ryanair Chase
Allaho was magnificent in last year’s Ryanair Chase (Michael Steele/PA)

Conflated will be a new rival for Allaho should he run for Gordon Elliott following his startling display in the Irish Gold Cup.

Dan Skelton’s Shan Blue, not seen since falling with the Charlie Hall at his mercy, heads the home team.

Both Bob Olinger and Galopin Des Champs are in the Turners Novices’ Chase, although plenty in the 16 confirmations are thought likely to turn up elsewhere.

Bravemasgame and L’Homme Presse are reportedly on course for the Brown Advisory over three miles, while Saint Sam, Haut En Couleurs and Blue Lord and prominent in the betting for the Arkle.

Paisley Park in perfect place as latest Cheltenham challenge looms

Emma Lavelle hopes Paisley Park will be benefited by a full crowd at Cheltenham as he prepares for an attempt to regain his crown in the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle.

The much-loved bay has been a constant presence in the division since the 2018-19 season, when he was unbeaten in five runs and capped a superb term with victory at the Festival in the long-distance hurdle highlight.

The following campaign he was unable to hold on to his title after finishing seventh behind Lisnagar Oscar when suffering from a later-diagnosed heart issue, but he recovered the season after to tussle with Philip Hobbs’ top stayer Thyme Hill in Newbury’s Long Distance Hurdle and Ascot’s Long Walk Hurdle – with each horse taking a race apiece.

His 2021 Festival run ended in a third-placed finish behind Flooring Porter and he began the current campaign with a string of further third-placed runs in the bet365 Hurdle at Wetherby, the Long Distance Hurdle and the Long Walk Hurdle.

A return to Cheltenham for the Cleeve Hurdle, an event he had won twice previously, ended in a dramatic triumph as he looked ready to refuse to start as the tapes went up but was eventually cajoled by Aidan Coleman and remarkably inched his way into the race to prevail by three and a quarter lengths.

Paisley Park winning a third Cleeve Hurdle
Paisley Park winning a third Cleeve Hurdle (David Davies/PA)

Next week he will head back to his favourite track in a bid reassert himself at the head of the staying hierarchy, and is reportedly in fine fettle ahead of the meeting.

“Touch wood he’s in really good form, he’s done everything we could have wanted from him up until this point,” said Lavelle.

“Aidan’s in tomorrow (Tuesday) to give him a pop over a hurdle and everything’s gone well, we’ll just keep all of our fingers crossed that he can continue in that vein all the way to Cheltenham.”

Paisley Park has started as the favourite for the past three runnings of the Grade One feature, but this time around he looks unlikely to head the market as Flooring Porter, Klassical Dream, Thyme Hill and Champ are all at shorter prices.

“It’s lovely to have a favourite because they’re the favourite on their form going in to it, but at the same time now we can just go there and enjoy it,” Lavelle said.

Andrew Gemmell, owner of Paisley Park (left), and jockey Aidan Coleman after winning the 2019 Stayers' Hurdle
Andrew Gemmell, owner of Paisley Park (left), and jockey Aidan Coleman after winning the 2019 Stayers’ Hurdle (Andrew Matthews/PA)

“He’s been such a star and his last run proved he still has the ability, we go there hopeful and just wanting to enjoy it.”

Lavelle’s stable star is owned by Andrew Gemmell, a popular and dedicated figure in the sport who was, like all owners, unable to watch his horse in action last season due to Covid-enforced restrictions at the track.

Gemmell will be in attendance this time, however, along with a full-strength crowd that Lavelle hopes will boost the chances of Paisley Park.

“I think for Paisley it’s a positive, he loves the crowds and it gets his blood up,” she said.

“The fact that the crowds are there again will be a big plus for him.”

The Lavelle team will have a further handful of Cheltenham contenders across the week, with Eclair Surf and Red Rookie the only doubts from the entries the yard has made.

Red Rookie winning at Hereford
Red Rookie winning at Hereford (David Davies/PA)

Red Rookie is in both the Arkle and the Grand Annual and it is the latter race he may line up for if conditions prove to be soft enough at Prestbury Park.

“We’d look at the Grand Annual if we were going to look at anything for him, but he needs proper soft ground so the rain would need to start falling for us to think about running him,” said Lavelle.

“I think he’s very well handicapped, but there is a balance between being well handicapped and not having enough experience.

“We will make a very considered decision as to whether we run him or not, there is an option to go to Ascot a week later so I think the weather will dictate what we do with him.”

Top Dog, who has a Listed bumper win to his name, will take his chance in a hot renewal of the Weatherbys Champion Bumper.

Top Dog (black silks) winning the Best Odds On The Betfair Exchange National Hunt Flat Race
Top Dog (black silks) winning the Best Odds On The Betfair Exchange National Hunt Flat Race (Steven Paston/PA)

“Top Dog will run in the bumper. He came out of Newbury really well, he’s clearly got a big engine but a little bit of quirkiness to go with it, hence his desire to go left a bit.

“There are plenty of lovely horses in the bumper, but I think he deserves his chance. He’s run well at Cheltenham already so he’ll go for that.”

In the Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle Lavelle intends to run Western Victory, a nine-year-old mare previously trained to Listed success in Ireland by Declan Queally before switching yards and finishing fourth and third in the Warfield and the Yorkshire Rose respectively.

“Western Victory will run in the mares’ hurdle, she came over having had good form in Ireland,” the trainer said.

“We took a little bit of time just to get to know her, she’s a filly that’s on the go all the time and it just took us a while to work her out.

Western Victory at Ascot
Western Victory at Ascot (Adam Davy/PA)

“She had two runs in quick succession and I’m looking forward to running her, she’s in good form.

“A little horse called Hang In There will also run in the Coral Cup I’d say, if the ground isn’t too soft.

“That’s our small team, but I think they all warrant their place.”

Stayers Hurdle Trends

Billed as the feature race on the third day (Thursday) of the Cheltenham Festival, the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle (formerly the World Hurdle) is run over a distance of 3m with 12 hurdles to jump.

The present format of the contest was first run in 1972, and after being known as the Ladbrokes World Hurdle from 2005 the race returned to it’s original name - the Stayers’ Hurdle – in 2017, with Paddy Power now the race sponsors.

In recent years, the contest has been dominated by previous winners of the race with the French-trained, Baracouda, landing the prize twice, the gutsy Inglis Drever winning three times, while the Paul Nicholls-trained Big Buck’s took the honours four times on the bounce between 2009-2012.

In 2018 we saw the Willie Mullins yard win the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle for the second year in a row – this time with the 7 year-old Penhill, while it was Paisley Park that won the race in 2019 and gave trainer Emma Lavelle her first winner in the race – but could only manage seventh in the race in 2020 and third in 2021 - he should be back for more this year though, having returned to form by winning the 2022 Cleeve Hurdle here at Cheltenham in January.

12 months ago, in 2022, we saw the Gavin Cromwell-trained Flooring Porter making all to win the race for jockey Danny Mullins by 3 ¼ lengths.

Here at GEEGEEZ we look back at recent Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle winners and gives you the key stats to take into the 2022 renewal – this year run on 18th March 2020.


Recent Stayers’ Hurdle Winners

2021 - FLOORING PORTER (12/1)
2020 – LISNAGAR OSCAR (50/1)
2019 – PAISLEY PARK (11/8 fav)
2018 – PENHILL (12/1)
2017 – NICHOLS CANYON (10/1)
2015 – COLE HARDEN (14/1)
2014 – MORE OF THAT (15/2)
2013 – SOLWHIT (17/2)
2012 – BIG BUCK’S (5/6 fav)
2011 - BIG BUCK’S (10/11 fav)
2010 - BIG BUCK’S (5/6 fav)
2009 - BIG BUCK’S (6/1)
2008 – INGLIS DREVER (11/8 fav)
2007 – INGLIS DREVER (5/1)
2006 – MY WAY de SOLZEN (8/1)
2005 – INGLIS DREVER (5/1)
2004 – IRIS’S GIFT (9/2)
2003 – BARACOUDA (9/4 fav)

Stayers’ Hurdle Betting Trends

16/19 – Had raced within the last 10 weeks
16/19 – Finished 1st or 2nd last time out
16/19 – Had won over at least 3m (hurdles) before
16/19 – Aged 8 or younger
14/19 – Returned 8/1 or shorter in the betting
14/19 – Winning distance – 3 1/2 lengths or less
14/19 – Placed favourites
13/19 – Came from the top 3 in the betting
13/19 – Had raced that calendar year
12/19 – Went onto run at the Aintree Grand National Meeting later that season
12/19 – Had won over hurdles at Cheltenham before
12/19 – Won their latest race
11/19 – Contested either the Cleeve Hurdle (8) or the Long Walk Hurdle (3) last time out
10/19 – Rated 163 or higher
7/19 – French-bred
7/19 – Went onto win at Aintree later that season
7/19 – Winning favourite
4/19 – Trained by Paul Nicholls
4/19 – Irish-trained winners
The average winning SP in the last 19 runnings is 8/1

Stayers’ Hurdle Stats:

Every winner since 1972 has been aged 6 or older
Since 1972 there have been 7 previous winners of the race
Horses that ran at the previous season’s Cheltenham Festival are 22 from 27
Horses that were placed fourth or better last time out have won 33 of the last 34 renewals
The top five in the betting have finished 1st, 2nd and 3rd in 7 of the last 18 renewals
Just 4 Irish-trained winners since 1996 – Solwhit (2013), Nichols Canyon (2017), Penhill (2018), Flooring Porter (2021)
All of the last 34 winners were aged 9 or younger

Stayers Hurdle – UK v Irish

18/24 – British-trained winners
2/24 – French-trained winners
4/24 – Irish-trained winners
Trainer Paul Nicholls (UK) has trained 4 winners of the race
Willie Mullins (Ire) has trained just 2 winners of the race (2017, Nichols Canyon, 2018 Penhill)
Nicky Henderson (UK) has trained just 1 winner of the race (2000, Bacchanal)
Paul Nicholls (UK) has trained 4 of the last 12 winners
Jonjo O’Neill (UK has trained 2 of the last 17 winners









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

Paisley Park records astonishing Cleeve Hurdle triumph

Paisley Park claimed his third successive victory in the Welsh Marches Stallions At Chapel Stud Cleeve Hurdle Cleeve Hurdle with an astonishing run that saw him almost left at the start.

The Emma Lavelle-trained gelding won the staying feature in both 2019 and 2020 before his 2021 bid for a treble was scuppered due to waterlogging – and this latest tilt looked well and truly blighted, too, as he spun round and lost lengths on the field.

Gradually eased back into it by Aidan Coleman, the 5-1 chance – winner of the Stayers’ Hurdle in 2019 – jumped the last level with 8-15 favourite Champ and powered up the hill to register a three-and-a-quarter-length success that had at one stage looked an impossibility.

Nicky Henderson’s Champ was the eventual runner-up, with Rebecca Curtis’ Lisnagar Oscar the third-placed horse at 14-1.

“He’s tried that a few times, he has that in him – I was waiting for him and he still did it. I thought I was doing enough, but he’s just probably getting a bit older and a bit wiser,” Coleman said of Paisley Park’s start.

“He’s a very good horse, people have been writing him off this year. This is really special, the longevity of this horse is just a testament to his ability and his character. This is his track, I know he’s won two Long Walks at Ascot, but he’s won three Cleeves now and a Stayers’.

“I said to Paddy (Brennan) at the top of the hill that I was still in it, even though I’d whipped around. They weren’t getting away from me and I knew he’d hit the line. He’s just different around this track, regardless of what goes before or after, this is just very special.

“It’s very special for a multitude of reasons, mainly just how much of a champion he is.”

Owner Andrew Gemmell was unable to be present, but Lavelle said: “It’s really emotional, just because of the support that we get from everyone for Paisley, and what he’s done for us and how hard he tries.

“He came here in great order and Andrew not being able to be here today was a sadness, but he’s very chirpy now in his hospital bed!

“He (Paisley Park) wears his heart on his sleeve and despite missing the start, he was able to make the ground up and he kept galloping – it was vintage Paisley.

“He makes it hard to watch and people have really rallied round him and supported him. We’re so lucky to be part of him – he’s a special horse.

“It would be nice to win the Stayers’ Hurdle again – in a slightly straightforward manner would be nice!

“I’m very happy with what he’s done today and it’s all systems go for the Festival.”

She added: “I loved the way he travelled for much of the race today. They quickened and I though ‘uh, oh’, but then the camera shot changed and I thought ‘Oh my God, we’re coming!’.

“From there he galloped all the way up the hill and I’m afraid I probably lost it at that point.

“There’s nothing like having a winner at Cheltenham, at any Cheltenham meeting. You get that noise when you come back in, which we missed so much during Covid.

“Coming in here today, it almost felt like the Festival and it means so much.

“If there is ever a horse to be willed up the hill it’s probably him. It was stamina-sapping ground and that was proper Paisley today, which we haven’t seen for a while.

“We never lost faith in him as he’s always shown us the same at home. The tongue-tie has definitely been a help and Ascot was a big step in the right direction.

“Today was a big step again and hopefully he can keep it going.”

Coral make Paisley Park 8-1 to regain his Stayers’ Hurdle crown, with Champ out to 5-1 from 11-4. Betfair and Paddy Power quote Paisley Park at 7-1.

Henderson was gracious in defeat, saying: “He’s just got a bit tired. I’d like to say this is trials day and not the day, but he didn’t quite travel like he did at Ascot. We’ll regroup. I don’t think it changes the plan. We’ve got to look at a couple of things – look at what, I don’t know.

“One thing you have to say that is a remarkable performance by the winner and a fantastic performance by Emma and all her team.

“Fair credit to them. To get him back from where he’s been is pretty remarkable.”

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.”

All roads leading back to Stayers’ Hurdle for Paisley Park

Paisley Park is to bid to reclaim his Stayers’ Hurdle crown at Cheltenham following his encouraging effort at Ascot on Saturday.

Emma Lavelle feels her stable star showed he is back on the right track by sticking on well to finishing third behind Champ in the Long Walk Hurdle. But she would like to see the ground ease to bring his stamina more into play.

The Andover trainer will give the nine-year-old his prep run for the Festival in the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham on January 29, a race he won in 2019 before going on to Stayers’ Hurdle glory and again in 2020.

Lavelle said on Sunday: “He’s perfect. He’s come out of the race really well and all is very good.

“We were delighted with him. It was much more back in the right direction and he’s run a smashing race.

“What he really needs is some rain that just takes that ability to quicken out of the others and makes staying much more important. When the ground is soft you need to stay three miles properly to see it out, when it’s like this it’s a bit easier to get there.

“Clearly we always want to be winning, but it was a proper performance.”

She added: “I think on the back of yesterday and the fact, run by run, he seems to be heading in the right direction, the plan will be to go to the Cleeve and then the Stayers’.

“I had a good chat with Andrew (Gemmell, owner) this morning and he’s in agreement that’s the right route to take with him. We’ll stay over hurdles and see.”

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.”