Gemmell's dream comes true

His horse Paisley Park secured Grade 1 glory on a packed and emotional third day of the Cheltenham Festival

Andrew Gemmell (left) with Paisley Park after victory in the Grade 1 Sun Racing Stayers’ Hurdle – Photo George Selwyn

The fairytale dream of owner Andrew Gemmell, blind since birth, came true on Thursday when his superstar Paisley Park survived a blunder at the last to record an impressive triumph in the Grade 1 Sun Racing Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Having graduated through the handicap ranks earlier in the season, Gemmell and Paisley Park’s trainer Emma Lavelle hatched a plan to plunder Grade 1 glory in the JLT Long Walk Hurdle before tackling the staying event at this year’s Festival.

Victory in the Grade 2 Cleeve Hurdle in January put to bed any doubts about the seven-year-old not handling the track and on Thursday, under jockey Aidan Coleman, he powered home in the three-mile contest.

There were nervous moments as he hit the last remaining obstacle but importantly, he stayed on his feet and surged up the hill to beat Sam Spinner by two and three-quarter lengths.

Gemmell, overcome with emotion, said: “It’s been a real dream trip. I had high hopes for him, but I can’t believe it’s happened. Hopefully it’s the first Festival winner of many.

“He’s really in that Barracuda and Big Buck’s mould – he hits a flat spot and comes back again.”

Lavelle was returning to the winner’s enclosure for the first time since Pause And Clause in 2010 and added: “It’s different gravy. People are giving three cheers for Paisley Park! It’s just phenomenal for everyone and all the lads are at home watching on TV.

“Watching the race, we wondered if he was too far out of his ground, but Aidan knew what he had and said he still got there too soon. These real true stayers need to travel off the bridle and then they need to find it when asked.

“That’s what he’s done. He’s had a proper race today, and I’m so proud of him.”

Frost and Frodon’s historic Ryanair

Described as a “match made in heaven” by commentator Simon Holt before the Grade 1 Ryanair Chase, Bryony Frost and Frodon delivered once again at Cheltenham.

Successful on four occasions prior to Thursday’s success, there was the familiar sight of Frost and Frodon leading the field the moment the tapes went up. They didn’t have it all their way, though, as Sub Lieutenant kept up early on to give Frodon something to think about.

As Sub Lieutenant made way for Aso in the latter stages, Frost and Frodon dug deep when headed and rallied bravely to record a historic victory.

Frost became the first woman to land a top-flight victory at the Cheltenham Festival and follows on from her victory on Pacha Du Polder in the 2017 Foxhunter Chase.

She said: “It’s Frodon’s day. He’s the one at the Festival, he’s my partner in crime and my god, he answered me today. Everything we did out there we were totally in sync with each other.

“He’s so on song. The team at Ditcheat had him a 100% ready for this and he’s come here in the form of his life and this year he’s got better and better. This is his golden day and he deserves every minute of it.

Frodon (right): on his way to a historic victory with Bryony Frost in Thursday’s Grade 1 Ryanair Chase – Photo: George Selwyn

“It was that moment when he was headed that he didn’t accept defeat. He said no and I said no. For that split second it could have gone another way, but he grabbed a hold of me and said ‘no kid, we keep going. There’s still that hill there and one more fence to jump, we’re still in it and the line isn’t here yet.’

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re a boy or girl. It doesn’t matter who you are – if you want something and you’ve got the support, go on and keep kicking on.”

Frodon was the second winner of this year’s Cheltenham Festival for ten-time champion trainer Paul Nicholls, who saddled Topofthegame to a thrilling victory in Wednesday’s Grade 1 RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase.

Nicholls added: “That is one of the best days ever. Frodon is a brilliant horse.

“The decision to go for this race wasn’t difficult in the end with the ground. The good thing is, to win this race, you need something that stays three miles and he got the three. That was perfect and we might look at something different next year.

“Bryony deserves it, everyone in the team deserves it and, most of all, the horse deserves it. He is just the most amazing horse you ever want to train. It’s a very, very special day.”

Kelly adds to female success

A year on from securing a first win at the Cheltenham Festival, Lizzie Kelly became the third female jockey to be successful at this year’s edition after making all to claim the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase on Siruh Du Lac.

Kelly had partnered Coo Star Sivola to land last year’s Grade 3 Ultima Handicap Chase. Both of her Festival winners are trained by her stepfather, Nick Williams.

“I love that type of heart on your sleeve ride – it works for me and it works for him,” she said. “I wasn’t going to make the running. I was going to sit behind Tom Bellamy but his folded quite easily after the first couple of fences, so I thought I’d just make it then.

“I was surprised how he quickened in the straight. That was very impressive especially after being out in front all the way.”

Defi strikes again

Billed as the title decider between Defi Du Seuil and Lostintranslation, the pair faced off in the Grade 1 JLT Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham on day three, when Philip Hobbs’ stable star came out on top.

The duo had met in last month’s Grade 1 Scilly Isles’ Novices’ Chase, when Defi Du Seuil reversed the form from their meeting in the Grade 2 Dipper Novices’ Chase on New Year’s Day, when Lostintranslation was victorious.

Lostintranslation, trained by Colin Tizzard, led from the front throughout the race and approached the final fence still in the lead. Barry Geraghty utilised Defi Du Seuil’s powerful finishing surge to strike up the hill and pass Lostintranslation to win by two and a quarter lengths.

Philip Hobbs’ charge was victorious at the Festival once again, having been successful in the 2017 Triumph Hurdle and has returned to his very best following a loss of form in the 2017-18 season.

Hobbs said: “Defi is amazing, he’s very tough and his jumping is fantastic. Sometimes these smaller horses are better at the whole thing as they’re more athletic.

“He jumped beautifully and had a great run all the way around, it could not have gone better.

“He was left in this race and the Arkle until the last minute and we left all our options open because there was no point deciding until we had to. To be realistic I think he could have won both.”

Defi Du Seuil was part of a quickfire double for Barry Geraghty, with the jockey on the mark in the day’s second race, the Grade 3 Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle, when delivering the Gordon Elliott-trained and JP McManus-owned Sire Du Berlais to win by a neck.

There was a third winner on Thursday for the famous green and gold silks when Derek O’Connor’s strong ride secured victory in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Amateur Riders’ Handicap Chase on Any Second Now.

50-1 shot lands mares race

In a thrilling finish to the Grade 2 National Hunt Breeders supported by Tattersalls Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle, 50-1 shot Eglantine Du Seuil denied her 66-1 stablemate Concertista in a photo-finish.

The pair, trained by Willie Mullins, capitalised on the fancied Epatante and Posh Trish failing to fire, securing their trainer a fourth straight victory since the race’s inception.

Eglantine Du Seuil was partnered by Noel Fehily and he said: “Her form, behind Triplicate and Aramon, certainly looks better now and she must be pretty good.

“A fast-run two miles suits her, but she’ll probably get further in time. She was quite keen, but her heart is as big as she is. I’m really happy for Jared Sullivan.”

After partnering the mare to victory, Fehily revealed that he plans to retire from the saddle in the coming weeks after a career lasting more than 20 years, one that has included a Tingle Creek aboard Master Minded and Champion Hurdle glory on Rock On Ruby in 2012 and Buveur D’Air in 2017.

Fehily also recorded back-to-back victories in the King George VI Chase in 2013 and 2014 on Silviniaco Conti, and captured the Queen Mother Champion Chase on Special Tiara in 2017.

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