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Greatest Paisley Park moments: Legendary stayer retires at Cheltenham

The hugely popular Paisley Park was retired at Cheltenham on Thursday after finishing tenth in his sixth Stayers' Hurdle, bringing the curtain down on a memorable career.

The 12-year-old has finished runner-up three times by short margins this season to merit a chance at winning the crown he claimed in 2019 for a second time, but he was unable to produce one last piece of magic in what was to be his last appearance on the course.

However, Gordon Elliott’s Teahupoo claimed a three-and three-quarter length victory over two-time race winner Flooring Porter.

Overall Paisley Park won 11 of his 31 races and claimed prize money totalling £729,426.

Horse Racing

Trainer Emma Lavelle and his popular owner Andrew Gemmell will now decide what the future holds, with Lavelle saying Gemmell would like to "keep him in his garden".

The Wiltshire-based trainer said after the race: "It’s the right thing to do. I’ve had so much pride in Paisley. He’s taken us on a journey from beginning to end, both at home and on the racecourse, and he’s been so special.

"He ran a lovely race again, but the turbo is no longer working in the way it used to.

"He’s sound, he’s happy, and he’ll think he’s won again going around the parade ring now and getting all of that applause. He’s just extraordinary.

"He's such a hard horse to describe, he's meant so much to all of us. I'm so grateful to the public that have taken him to their heart as well, because it's made it even more special for us."

Burning back from early setbacks

Paisley Park was bred at the Evergreen Stud in County Kildare, Ireland and was named after the pop star Prince’s former home when bought by Gemmell.

He was sired by Oscar, whose other big jump race winners included Lord Windermere, Rock on Ruby, Oscar Whiskey and Big Zeb.

There was a great seal of promise when Paisley Park came second on his debut in a Warwick bumper in January 2017, but his career was almost halted before it really got going as he had colic shortly afterwards and the condition nearly killed him.

But he made a full recovery and the path to legendary status began in earnest after an 11-month break when he won his first race, a two-and-a-half mile novice hurdle at Hereford the following December.

However, despite two encouraging seconds in his next two starts, his first appearance at Cheltenham was to be a disappointment as he finished last in the Albert Bartlett, losing a shoe in a race won by Kilbricken Storm.

But the following season was when things really started to take off as that blow was quickly consigned to history.

Paisley Park's Greatest Moments

A win in a handicap at Aintree set the ball rolling under Aidan Coleman and there was plenty of excitement when he won another stayers handicap at Haydock.

The Grade 1 breakthrough then came when he beat a top-class field to win his first Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot by two lengths.

Then the excitement really grew when he put the Albert Bartlett disappointment to bed by winning the Grade 2 Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham in January 2019.

Those performances earned him a price of 11/8 for the Stayers' Hurdle at the Festival in March and he obliged to roars from his many fans, recovering from a mistake at the last to beat Sam Spinner and Faugheen to glory.

More success seemed likely the following season after he beat former Stayers' champion Thistlecrack and four others to land the Grade 2 Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury in November.

Another Cleeve hurdle win followed in January and all the signs seemed to be there for a repeat triumph in the Stayers, for which he was priced at just 4/6.

However, things didn't go his way and he never really got going, finishing seventh behind outsider Lisnagar Oscar.

It was then a case of nearly but not quite despite winning the Long Walk Hurdle again, this time by a neck from Thymes HIll.

While he went off as favourite for the Stayers' for the third successive Festival, he was to finish third behind Flooring Porter, a result that was to be repeated 12 months later following another Cleeve triumph.

The Long Walk Hurdle, which was run at Kempton on Boxing Day in 2022 proved to be his final victory.

While there were some stirring performances in finishing second on three occasions this season under Tom Bellamy, a second Stayers' triumph proved beyond him and racing fans will be grateful for all the joy he brought them in his career and that it finished safely.

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