Paisley Park favoured to regain Cheltenham Stayers Hurdle crown, owner Andrew Gemmell will anxiously follow from home

Wiltshire-trained horse Paisley Park is the favourite to win the Stayers Hurdle, Thursday's feature race at Cheltenham Festival.

The 9 year old gelding, trained by Emma Lavelle at her Marlborough yard, had looked set to dominate the division for years to come when claiming Festival glory in 2019, but was found to be suffering from a heart problem when bidding for back-to-back victories 12 months ago.

He almost died after suffering with equine colic two years before his Stayers victory, Paisley's remarkable recovery and the evident bond between him and his owner Andrew Gemmell captured the hearts of many.

Andrew has been blind since birth but has never let that get in the way of his love of sport, he became captivated by horse racing as a young boy.

"Racing is one of the sports which I'm alright with because I can hear the course commentary even in the final furlong I can just about hear him so I know what's going on."

With this years Festival taking place behind closed doors, Andrew says he'll miss the buzz of being there in person but will be following the action at home, "I'll be listening to the commentary on the television, I'll probably hear it even clearer because I won't hear the crowd roaring actually!"

Andrew Gemmell celebrates Paisley Park's victory in 2019 Credit: ITV Racing

With Paisley Park this years favorite among the 15 runners, it'll be a tense afternoon for Andrew. Paisley's closest rival Thyme Hill has pulled out with an injury.

Andrew says he's confident in his horses' ability but knows anything can happen.

"With what he's done so far this season he deserves to be favorite, we've got to be hopeful, I just hope that things work out."

"It would mean everything to me and for him as well to come back from the illness and the heart scare, it would be great if he could do it, the only sad thing is I'm not going to be there to see him."

Andrew has been able to visit Paisley at the yard in Marlborough to see him on the gallops, wish him luck and give him a few of his favorite polo mints.

"He does definitely know me, whenever I go to him he comes straight over and puts his head on my shoulder, he's just a lovely horse."

Whatever happens on Thursday, Andrew says Paisley Park has changed his life.

"He's been exceptional, I've been involved with horses for quite a while now, I've never had a horse like this.

"He means so much to me, he's my best mate really I love him to bits."