Paisley Park wins incredible Welsh Marches Stallions at Chapel Stud Cleeve Hurdle
Paisley Park claimed his third successive victory in the 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.”