Paisley Park Looking To Make History

Features | 25th January 2023

He will try to win the Cleeve Hurdle for a record fourth time at Cheltenham on Saturday

Cementing the Legacy

The star staying hurdler has enjoyed a stellar career and he will attempt to cement his legacy further in the Grade 2 prize – sponsored by Dahlbury Stallions At Chapel Stud – on the bumper nine-race Festival Trials Day card. The 11-year-old, trained by Emma Lavelle, matched Lady Rebecca’s three Cleeve Hurdle wins with a remarkable victory 12 months ago. 

His race looked over before it had begun when he gifted his rivals at least a dozen lengths in shying away from the starting tape as the runners were released. The way he charged up his favourite hill to the finishing line to beat top-class Champ by three-and-aquarter lengths drew gasps from the crowd. It added another remarkable victory to Paisley Park’s impressive résumé.

Paisley Park winning the Ladbrokes Long Walk Hurdle at Kempton on Boxng Day of 2022

Stellar Career

The story started way back in the summer of 2015 when Andrew Gemmell paid 60,000 Euros for the unraced three-year-old. The enthusiastic owner, who has been blind since birth, promptly named him after popstar Prince’s extraordinary American home. He went into training with Lavelle and her ex-jockey husband Barry Fenton at their historic yard near Marlborough, Wiltshire. 

His first appearance on the racecourse came in January 2017 in a ‘newcomers’ bumper that closes Warwick’s big Classic Chase meeting. After finishing runner-up behind shock winner Point Of Principle, he embarked on a novice hurdle campaign the next season. It was solid if not spectacular but what was to follow projected Paisley Park to the top of the staying hurdle tree. 

Under regular jockey Aidan Coleman, he went through the 2018/19 season unbeaten. His win in Ascot’s Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle and his first Cleeve Hurdle success were followed by Cheltenham Festival glory in the Stayers’ Hurdle. It confirmed him the division’s clear number one. The victory came in the style that has become Paisley Park’s trademark. After hitting his usual flat spot running down the hill, he was only eighth turning for home. Then his stamina kicked in and, boy, did it kick in. Running gun-barrel straight up the punishing hill, he stayed on so strongly he was already in front jumping the final hurdle, leaving northern raider Sam Spinner and Irish star Faugheen trailing. 

The following year, a second Stayers’ Hurdle looked as much of a formality as you get at the Cheltenham Festival but an irregular heartbeat was diagnosed as the reason for his below-par performance. He might not have quite rediscovered his very best form since, but third placings in the last two Stayers’ Hurdle and his breath-taking third Cleeve Hurdle victory show he is still a force to be reckoned with. If the weather had been kinder two years ago, when the meeting was abandoned due to the waterlogged track, he might be gunning for a famous five Cleeve victories

A Record Breaker?

His prep for this year’s race could hardly have gone better. He notched up his third Long Walk Hurdle win on Boxing Day despite the Grade 1 race being moved from Ascot’s frozen-off Christmas meeting to the less-suitable venue of Kempton Park. 

He’s likely to face opposition from Grade 1 winners Gelino Bello and Dashel Drasher in this year’s Cleeve Hurdle but, if it was a popularity contest, Paisley Park would win hands down, no doubt.