PAISLEY PARK survived a last-flight blunder to justify favouritism and record a fairytale success for his connections in the Sun Racing Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Emma Lavelle’s seven-year-old – whose owner Andrew Gemmell has been blind from birth – had enjoyed a perfect season to date with four impressive victories which saw punters send him off at 11/8.
Lavelle has enjoyed two Festival wins, Crack Away Jack in 2008 and Pause And Clause in 2010, but Paisley Park's win here was of a different order all together, not least because her husband Barry Fenton rides him every morning and owner Andrew Gemmell has been a friend and valued supporter of the yard for years.
The trainer said: "It's different gravy. It's just a different level. People are giving three cheers for Paisley Park! It's just phenomenal for everyone. All the lads are at home watching on TV.
"It's amazing. Watching the race we wondered if he was too far out of his ground, but Aidan (Coleman) knew what he had and said he still got there too soon. These real true stayers need to travel off the bridle, and then they need to find it when asked. That's what he's done. He's had a proper race today, and I'm so proud of him."
With confidence building behind former champion hurdler Faugheen in recent days, however, and Ruby Walsh having him in the perfect position throughout, Paisley Park faced his toughest test to date.
As he has in the past, Paisley Park had got a little outpaced with a mile to run, but just like in the Cleeve Hurdle, he came charging around the outside to take over from Sam Spinner, a 33/1 chance this year having been sent off favourite 12 months ago.
With Faugheen now running on empty in third it looked a foregone conclusion, but with a length lead approaching the last, Paisley Park launched himself at it, managing to stay on his feet before winning by two and three-quarter lengths.
The story of his owner has been well told in the build up to the meeting and hot on the heels of Bryony Frost bringing the house down aboard Frodon in the Ryanair Chase, the Cheltenham crowd welcomed home another popular winner.
Jockey Aidan Coleman (left) celebrates after winning the Sun Racing Stayers' Hurdle on Paisley Park. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Speaking after the race, Gemmell said: "This is fantastic and a real dream for me. I cannot believe it has happened.
"I still had hopes [during the race] because we know that is the way Paisley Park runs.
"I hope this is the first of many because I will keep coming back. We are so chuffed and we're all in tears."
"This has been a brilliant journey and I have enjoyed it all the way. I've been to Cheltenham for years and years. It is just something else to be in the winner's enclosure.
"Emma Lavelle and Barry Fenton [assistant trainer] have done brilliantly with this horse. I'm so chuffed for those two and Aidan. They are all great people to be around and this is a brilliant moment."