Paisley Park has come a long way since his failure at Cheltenham Festival last season, developing into one of the most talented horses in the National Hunt in the 2018/19 campaign. Emma Lavelle’s charge was an outside candidate for the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, and although he was not expected to mount a challenge for the crown, the bay gelding finished 13th in a field of 20.
The Irish-bred horse has bounced back with a vengeance with a sublime run of form this term, reeling off four victories on the bounce. Paisley’s Park form has seen him installed as one of the leading Cheltenham tips to take the Stayers’ Hurdle title in March. The seven-year-old has put forward dominant performances over the last six months and it would be no surprise to see him in the winners’ enclosure at the end of the meet.
Paisley Park was a long way from the horse that would be considered a Cheltenham favorite last season. He only had one victory under his belt in four races before entering the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle. At +3300, the bay gelding was an outsider, but as the race would prove, perceptions before the action can count for very little. Whereas Lavelle’s charge failed to make an impression in the contest, his compatriot Kilbricken Storm – valued at the same price before the meet - was outstanding and won the event by three lengths ahead of his nearest rival.
The success of Kilbricken Storm may have handed Lavelle and her charge inspiration for the first outing of the 2018/19 season at the Racing UK Handicap Hurdle at Aintree. Aidan Coleman took the reins for the first time and guided the bay gelding to a steady start. He moved the horse into contention three fences out before taking the decision to bypass the omitted final hurdle. Paisley Park surged down the stretch to close out the victory by two and a half lengths ahead of Lygon Rock.
The Irish-bred horse was able to build on his performance with a fine outing at the Betfair Exchange Stayers' Handicap Hurdle. He was not considered the favorite for the event at +400, but Coleman ensured that he added another victory to his tally. It followed a similar pattern to his triumph at Aintree, hanging at the back of the field before making his move four fences out. By the last, Paisley Park he powered his way into the lead and had the stamina to see out the win at Haydock Park.
As the level of competition improved Lavelle’s charge continued to rise to the occasion. He was again flawless at the JLT Hurdle, as Coleman engineered another well-timed surge to perfection. Paisley Park was slightly off the pace two fences before he made his charge for the lead. West Approach and Top Notch provided a threat down the straight, but the gelding fended off their attempts to secure yet another triumph and his first at Ascot.
The seven-year-old made his strongest statement for a potential Cheltenham Festival win at the Cleeve Hurdle. Paisley Park held his speed in reserve in the early stages amid a brisk pace set by Sam Spinner and Lil Rockerfeller. However, when the time was right Coleman urged his charge forward to surge past West Approach and then he did not look back. He claimed a dominant victory by 12 lengths ahead of the rest of the field. Lavelle’s charge will be the horse to beat at the Stayers’ Hurdle should he maintain his standard of form at the Festival.
Photo above courtesy of RPBloodstock via Twitter
Find out more about racing in our section on Steeplechase.