The Emma Lavelle Racing stables – aka Bonita Racing Stables and currently Ogbourne Maizey’s main attraction – have had dozens of visitors over the past few weeks. They’ve all come to make videos, take photos and write about one horse: Paisley Park.
Paisley Park is a seven year-old gelding. With four wins out of four runs this season, he is well fancied for the Cheltenham Festival’s Stayers’ Hurdle – one of the great races of the jumps season.
His win at Ascot in the Long Walk Hurdle gave his owner Andrew Gemell, trainer Emma Lavelle and jockey Aidan Coleman their first Grade One winner.
After a jump season hit by dry weather, then snow, and then equine flu – the Festival is next week. And we now know he will not mind the dreaded Cheltenham hill as he won there in January by twelve lengths – a famous victory and again under Coleman.
However, looking at the acres of print and hours of video time, it is sometimes difficult to know whether the story is the horse (he was so sick he nearly died – and recovered to win) or his owner, Andrew Gemell (who has been blind since birth and is a sports fan and racing fan without equal) – or whether it is simply a unique combination of a great racing tale and an amazing human story.
They have not only come to talk to Emma Lavelle and see the horse and sometimes meet Andrew Gemell there, but they have also been to see Paisley Park’s owner in London. And, yes, the horse is named after pop star Prince’s home estate. Prince was one of Gemell’s favourites.
When Andrew Gemmell was taken out to lunch in a north London pub by racing journalist Chris Cook of The Observer, he admitted to “…feeling really nervous. You’re excited to have horse in a big race, but when you’ve got the favourite, it puts extra pressure on you. I’m really optimistic, but I’m also bracing myself for disappointment.”
Marlboroughequestrian.news happened to be at the stables the day a video crew from bet365 came to record their preview. They were making four Cheltenham previews – one each from stables in Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England.
Paisley Park was their choice for the England leg of their series of video shorts – as the crew’s director said: “We couldn’t really go anywhere else – it’s just such a great story.”
Emma Lavelle did more perfect walking shots in front of the camera than many a seasoned political reporter: “He’s a cool dude – he’ll go left or right handed, undulating or flat tracks, any sort of ground…” Her husband, Barry Fenton, who nursed Paisley Park back to form on the gallops, explained his abilities. And Andrew Gemmell arrived to join the fun.
A short version of the result can be seen via Twitter here. Thank you bet365 – it’s worth a look.
If I was at Cheltenham for Paisley Park’s big race, I would not be watching the race as much as the owner as he stands in the paddock his back to the big screen – listening.