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Miracle Horse Paisley Park Shortens for Cheltenham Glory

Published: 10/02/2019

When we think of the Cheltenham Festival, most will draw up memories of classic Gold Cup battles of yesteryear.

Other Group One renewals, from the RSA Chase to the Arkle, have also produced some of the meeting’s finest moments, but for some purists, there is nothing quite like watching a huge field do battle on the famous track in the Stayers’ Hurdle.

This is the premier long-distance hurdle event in UK and Irish racing, with legendary horses from Galmoy to the incredible Big Buck’s enjoying success in the prestigious renewal, with the winner earning a cheque for their connections of a cool £170,000.

The 2019 edition of the race is expected to be as hotly contested as ever, although you suspect the weight of public – and bookmakers’ – favouritism will fall on the hefty shoulders of Paisley Park.

The seven-year-old overcame an illness that threatened his life, let alone racing career, a few years ago, and yet today he is regarded as one of the finest stayers in domestic racing.

And when you add into the mix the uncommon connections behind the scene, the feelings of hope and expectation rise yet further.

An Unlikely Duo

Owner Andrew Gemmell has been blind since birth, and developed a love of horse racing when listening to the commentaries on the radio with his family. In the game for well over a decade, he has owned winners but none that come close to the Grade One glory that Paisley Park could deliver in March.

Meanwhile, trainer Emma Lavelle has never saddled a Group One winner, and so if Paisley Park can get the job done in the Stayers’ Hurdle it would surely be one of the feel-good sporting stories of the year.

Can he get the job done? Absolutely: a 12-length victory in January’s Cleeve Hurdle is testament to that, and with a Grade One win to his name in the JLT Hurdle as well this is horse with the pedigree to triumph on the big stage. Indeed, in the latest Cheltenham Festival betting odds Paisley Park is listed as the 7/2 ante-post favourite.

Competition will surely come from Penhill, the defending Stayers’ Hurdle champion from the ever-reliable Willie Mullins yard who has twice won at the festival.

And then there’s Supasundae, who in his last seven races hasn’t finished outside of the top two finishers and usually at prices of 7/2 or longer. The Cheltenham record of Apple’s Jade, who may run here or in the Mares’ Hurdle, cannot be underestimated.

But one result you can be sure of: if Paisley Park gets the job done on Thursday March 14, the roar from the stands will be louder than for any other winner at the meeting.