Emma Lavelle: When Paisley Park is on song, he is extraordinary

Emma Lavelle is used to being surprised by Paisley Park but believes his third Long Walk Hurdle success at Kempton on Boxing Day was up there with his best performances.

When the race was frozen off at Ascot two weeks ago, Lavelle was delighted the race was rescheduled but admitted Kempton would not be near the top of the list of tracks deemed suitable for her stable star, who turns 11 in a matter of days.

The popular veteran showed he is as good as ever, though, by running down Champ and Goshen between the final two flights before powering away to victory.

"He probably won as impressively there as he has anywhere for many years - but that is Paisley for you, you just never know and he makes it up as he goes along!" said Lavelle.

"To call him versatile is a understatement. He's won right-handed and left-handed, on good ground and heavy ground, flat tracks and undulating tracks, quick tracks and staying tracks. When he's on song, he is extraordinary.

"He's about to turn 11 but you see when he hits the front, his ears go forward and hears the crowd - he just loves it. He loves the adulation he gets and accordingly I think he has a great rapport with the crowd, they love him.

"All the way through the race yesterday, bar the first two hurdles, he was in a lovely position and in a great rhythm, coming to three out I thought everything was going great, he was still on the bridle.

"Then he met three out wrong, the others quickened and all of a sudden he's off the bridle and chasing them during his flat spot. At that moment I wondered if the track was just going to find him out, but on the way to two out and he started getting closer, I suddenly thought it was game on. When he can smell victory, then off he goes."

Having finished a narrow second to Champ at Newbury first time out this season, Lavelle's husband and assistant Barry Fenton believes their stalwart is in much better form this term than last.

"Barry said he just looks in better form with himself this year and I have to agree. Don't get me wrong, last year he ran some terrific races and won another Cleeve Hurdle but this year he just seems to be buzzing," said Lavelle.

"He's so special and so important to us and while he's enjoying it we'll keep going. He hasn't had much in his favour in two runs this year, yet he's run brilliant races. I just think he spends a lot of time laughing at us and he never wants to be pigeonholed.

"How the race is run is so important. The last two Stayers' Hurdles have been dictated from the front and turned into a sprint - that hasn't played to our strengths - but this year he seems to be sharper and not giving them quite as much of a start.

"Having said that, if we go to the Cleeve next, knowing Paisley he might do the same as he did last year and give them all a head start! He certainly makes it interesting, too interesting in my opinion."

Lavelle herself was absent from Kempton on Boxing Day and instead cheered him home from Wincanton.

"Barry is such a part of Paisley's life. Andrew (Gemmell, owner) was in Australia, we had owners at Wincanton so I just thought 'fair's fair', it meant a lot to him to be able to go and enjoy that," she explained.

"Becca (James) who looks after him rang me after the race saying how emotional it was to hear everyone shouting for him and wanting their picture with him. It's rare to have the opportunity to be involved in a horse like that for any of us and it's very special."

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