Local star's four wins from four runs: Paisley Park gets closer still to Cheltenham Festival glory
He is a little apart from his friends. He has his back to the big screen that is showing twelve horses racing over hurdles. He is blind. He is moving slightly from foot to foot - swaying rhythmically. He is concentrating.Cheltenham Racecourse, 26 January 2019: a man is standing in the parade ring.
Suddenly he hears magic words from the commentator - he gestures in delight and starts shouting. Jockey Aidan Coleman has brought the man's horse Paisley Park through the midfield where he has been held through the race - and is now challenging the leaders - now passing them.
In the spare words of the Racing Post analysis of the race: "Mid-division, nudged along briefly after three out, headway after 2 out, led before last, ridden clear, impressive."Andrew Gemmell's Paisley Park, trained at Ogbourne Maizey by Emma Lavelle, won the galliardhomes.com Cleeve Hurdle - by twelve lengths.
'Impressive' indeed. After the race Coleman said he thought he had brought the horse forward a furlong or more too soon - any later and there might have been heart attacks among racegoers!
That win gives horse and jockey four wins from their four rides this season. And it instantly edges the Irish contingent of entries out of the way to become favourites for the Cheltenham Festival's Stayers Hurdle in March.
Andrew Gemmell, who is blind from birth, is a hugely enthusiastic and active follower of sport. He gave up a booked trip to the Australian Open so he could be at Cheltenham for Paisley Park's race: "It's the best decision I've made in a while! That was unbelievable and this horse continues to surpass our expectations. He's just growing into himself and getting better and better."
Talking to the press, Emma Lavelle gave full credit to her husband Barry Fenton who has provided detailed and personal attention to the horse since Paisley Park came back to the stables after a near fatal illness: "That was quite impressive wasn't it? He looked pretty special out there."
As her first Grade One winner (in the Long Walk at Ascot), he is very special to her, her husband and to her team. And to add to the day's successes, Paisley Park won best turned out - thanks to the skills of Laura Scrivener.
Paisley Park has certainly banished any idea that he does not like Cheltenham - a story started after he came last of the thirteen finishers in the 2018 running of the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle. As one sports news website put it: "Paisley Park gives Emma Lavelle that Cheltenham fervour."
Probably the only slight tinge of regret in Andrew Gemmell's celebrations was the unceremonious dumping out of his favourite team from the FA Cup the very evening after the race. He is a fervent West Ham supporter. A case, perhaps, of two legs iffy, four legs brilliant! There is more about Paisley Park here.