It has not been a terrific week for favourites so far but Paisley Park, the form horse in the Sun Racing Stayers Hurdle, can win the long-distance hurdling crown for trainer Emma Lavelle, jockey Aidan Coleman and owner Andrew Gemmell.
The sports mad Gemmell, 66, a former civil servant with Westminster council, has been blind since birth. “What you don’t have you don’t miss,” is his attitude to his disability and it has not prevented him attending Lord’s, where he is member of the MCC, Ashes cricket in Australia, the Melbourne Cup almost annually and the 2012 Olympics in London.
He has been involved in bits and pieces of horses in syndicates, including Trip To Paris, who was placed in the Melbourne Cup, but, until Paisley Park, a horse he named after the home of the pop star Prince, whose music he likes, he had never owned of horse of such ability outright.
Initially the seven-year-old’s career looked destined to have spanned one race when, soon after a promising debut, he spent a month at the vet’s with a colic like symptoms. “I don’t think anyone at the vet’s ever thought he would be coming home,” recalled Lavelle.
But recover he did and Paisley Park’s upward curve has been almost vertical this season as he progressed from handicaps to providing the trio with their first Grade One win, the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot last Christmas.