Cheltenham Festival: Paisley Park lands Stayers' Hurdle success

Aidan Coleman on Paisley Park
Coleman and Paisley Park received a huge roar as they made their way back to the winners' enclosure

Paisley Park lived up to his reputation with a superb victory in the Stayers' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival for owner Andrew Gemmell, who has been blind since birth.

The 11-8 favourite found plenty ahead of him as they turned for home.

But once jockey Aidan Coleman found racing room, he was able to show his staying power to superb effect.

Sam Spinner (33-1) was second with former Champion Hurdle winner Faugheen (4-1) third.

The seven-year-old winner, trained by Emma Lavelle, came into the race on the back of four victories, but this was his toughest challenge to date.

There was a nervous moment or two when he got outpaced with a mile to go, but he came charging around the outside and, despite making a mess of the final hurdle, he stayed on his feet to win by two and three-quarter lengths.

"I can't believe it's happened," an emotional Gemmell told BBC Radio 5 Live afterwards.

"It's fantastic. I'm in tears. Wow. I couldn't see the race but that roar is incredible!"

Paisley Park delivers again

West Ham supporter Gemmell, a former shop steward, has followed sport since his childhood and has travelled the world as a fan of cricket and horse racing.

Paisley Park, who cost £60,000, was named after the late singer Prince's home and recording studio.

But he nearly died two years ago from a serious illness.

Paisley Park's jockey Aidan Coleman, owner Andrew Gemmell and owner Emma Lavelle
Gemmell had backed the horse at 33-1 to win the Stayers' Hurdle

He recovered from that setback and earlier this season gave Lavelle and Coleman their first top-level Grade One wins after years of trying.

"He's delivered for us the whole season and he's done it again. I'm thrilled," said a delighted Lavelle.

"He was a bit further back than I expected, but the man in charge [Coleman] knew what he was doing. There are so many people behind this horse and I think they just blew him up the hill.

"We're going to enjoy the moment. I can't say quite how bad our hangover is going to be in the morning!"

Best of the rest

On a day where Bryony Frost's Ryanair Chase victory on Frodon and Lizzie Kelly's win on board Siruh Du Lac also thrilled the Cheltenham crowd, there was double success for Barry Geraghty.

First, the 3-1 favourite Defi Du Seuil won the JLT Novices' Chase for trainer Philip Hobbs before Sire Du Berlais (4-1) edged out the 40-1 chance Tobefair by a neck in the Pertemps Final.

The seven-year-old, trained by Gordon Elliott and, like Defi Du Seuil, owned by JP McManus, ran on strongly up the hill.

There was also a rare 50-1 winner for Willie Mullins as Eglantine Du Seuil beat stablemate Concertista (66-1) in the Mares' Novices' Hurdle.

The pair were among seven Mullins runners in the race and although winning jockey Noel Fehily had 10 in front of him approaching the final flight, he got there in the dying strides.

Afterwards, Fehily, one of the senior figures in the weighing room, announced he would be retiring in the coming weeks.

Although jockey Ruby Walsh drew a blank on Thursday, his father Ted was the winning trainer in the day's final race, the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Amateur Riders Handicap as the experienced Derek O'Connor won on Any Second Now (6-1).


BBC horse racing correspondent Cornelius Lysaght

This has the ability to be one of the most significant days in the recent history of the Festival.

The amount of times people say to me 'oh, horse racing is so old-fashioned, it's all men, all middle-class and really dull'.

The fact is, racing has a lot to be confident and on the front foot about, particularly in terms of female participants who weren't even allowed to be part of it until the late 1960s.

Bryony Frost guiding Frodon to victory, then 45 minutes later Emma Lavelle being the trainer of Paisley Park, and then Lizzie Kelly goes and rides a winner.

These are really significant results. It is really important in a sporting world where other sports are so much more powerful that racing has had a headline-grabbing day.

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