The Cheltenham Festival has quite a vocational habit of stirring emotion like few other racing occasions and Paisley Park's 2019 Stayers' Hurdle win certainly sparked an outpouring of goodwill.
Emma Lavelle's Paisley Park, now fully a veteran of the game, has gone on to plenty of further Grade 1 glory since and enjoyed something of a renaissance during the 2022/23 season.
|Where||Cheltenham Festival, Cheltenham Racecourse, Gloucestershire|
|When||3.30, Thursday 14th March, 2024|
|How to watch||bet365 Sports Live Streaming, ITV & Racing TV|
|Odds||Gaelic Warrior 6/1, Teahupoo 12/1, Klassical Dream 12/1, Marie's Rock 16/1, Sire Du Berlais 16/1|
Paisley Park has always had a loyal following. The tale of his owner Andrew Gemmell, who has been blind since birth but retains an immense passion for horse racing and the sounds of raceday, is one strand in the story.
Gemmell's enthusiasm for the sport can do nothing but draw favour with anyone who comes across him, but so, too, Paisley Park's rise to the top wasn't an easy one.
As a raw three-year-old he contracted colic, a case so severe it could have cost the horse his life, far less his racing career.
But he made a full recovery and has gone to achieve great things - the 2018, 2020 and 2022 Long Walk Hurdles, the 2019, 2020 and, unforgettably, the 2022 Cleeve Hurdles, and of course, that 2019 Stayers' Hurdle amongst his claims to fame.
That most famous of successes saw him typically under pressure on the home bend, but he stayed on powerfully for rider Aidan Coleman to get the better of Sam Spinner and Faugheen up the hill.
That completed a remarkable five-race winning 2019/20 season that saw him ascend from Aintree handicap winner to Grade 1 champion.
Despite memorably defeating Champ in the Cleeve Hurdle at last January, season 2021/22 was one that brought more what-could-have-been moments than anything else for Paisley Park.
Either side of that win, he was third behind the same rival in Ascot's Long Walk in December and occupied the same berth as Flooring Porter won a second Stayers' Hurdle in the Cotswolds in March.
He went to Ireland for the Champion Stayers' Hurdle at Punchestown, but played only a bit-part role as Klassical Dream beat off Ashdale Bob and Gentlemansgame.
Heading off for his summer recess, plenty were left to wonder if Paisley Park's days at the top were behind him.
Step forward seven months to Newbury and their Grade 2 Long Distance Hurdle in late November and old foes Champ and Paisley Park served up a blockbuster duel, Nicky Henderson's charge edging it by a neck at the end of three miles.
Was it just two old-timers scrapping over past endeavours, of did the fire still burn in these two warriors of the track?
The 2022 Long Walk Hurdle had to be rerouted to on Boxing Day as Ascot's card was claimed by freezing conditions, but that festive renewal did plenty to warm the hearts of any racing fan as Paisley Park found his winning touch once more.
As has been typical in his career, he got himself outpaced as the race began to get serious, but Aidan Coleman's partner rallied to the cause in a manner that defined him in his pomp and he powered past Goshen for a 4¼-length Grade 1 win, with Champ back in third.
It was truly a redemptive victory, the 11th of his career and a fourth at Grade 1 level - his first since landing the same prize at Ascot in 2020 when he picked the pocket of Thyme Hill in the final strides.
Two further runs at Cheltenham would follow. A fourth Cleeve Hurdle eluded him in January as Gold Tweet won for France and, come March, he was only seventh as Sire Du Berlais won a cracking renewal of the Stayers' Hurdle.
He's now an 11-year-old and no doubt owner Gemmell and trainer Lavelle will take the summer months to ponder their next move.
Emerging stars such as Gaelic Warrior (6/1) and Sandor Clegane (20/1) have advertised their potential 2024 Stayers' Hurdle claims with recent scores at the Punchestown Festival.