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'Absolutely brilliant' Paisley Park may be finished for the season

Paisley Park: 50-50 to run again this season
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Stayers' Hurdle winner Paisley Park is just 50-50 to run again this season after his memorable victory on Thursday.

Aintree and Punchestown are the possible options for a seven-year-old whose victory at Cheltenham sparked emotional scenes of celebration for owner Andrew Gemmell and trainer Emma Lavelle.

A two-and-three-quarter-length defeat of Sam Spinner made it five out of five in the 2018-19 season for Paisley Park, who had been hot favourite for the race ever since his 12-length romp in the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham in January.

"I think he was so busy looking at the crowd that he forgot there was a hurdle in front of him at the last, otherwise I think he would have done something very similar distance-wise to what he did in the Cleeve," Lavelle said on Saturday.

"He's come out of it very well but I don't know whether he'll run again this season. He's done everything we've asked of him this season and we'll have to see whether we go to the well again or not. He's only seven and we hope he has plenty of time in front of him. I'd say it's probably 50-50.

"Aintree and Punchestown are the two options and it depends how he is and whether we think he's done enough this season – we had everything lined up for Cheltenham and I don't want anything to be a race too far. "

Those who finished behind Paisley Park on Thursday were warned that the champion should be back to defend his crown as there are no plans to send him chasing.

"We'll definitely stay over hurdles next season and take the natural stayers' route," Lavelle said. "He absolutely loves it, you see him coming up the run-in with his ears pricked. We're very proud of him, he was absolutely brilliant."

But chasing is a possible long-term option for runner-up Sam Spinner, who will bid to go one place better this spring.

"We very much hope to run him again this season," said trainer Jedd O'Keeffe. "We are looking at Aintree and Punchestown or even possibly both as there are about four weeks between them.

"With a bit of luck we'll go somewhere that Paisley Park doesn't! I think he's an exceptional horse, he seems to have everything. We got an awful lot closer to him this time but I think he won with a bit in hand at Cheltenham and I couldn't necessarily see that we could beat him if he gave his running."

Sam Spinner (orange) finds Paisley Park just too strong

Punchestown is an option for Lady Jane Grosvenor's 66-1 Grand Annual Chase winner Croco Bay, whose trainer Ben Case said: "We'll see how he is in the next week or so before we make a decision, he hasn't had a lot of racing so he may run again – Aintree may come too soon and it's more likely to be somewhere like Punchestown."

The 12-year-old had finished third and fifth in previous Grand Annuals, and fell when fancied for another, and Case reasoned: "It's a fast-run race and he's able to gallop end-to-end. He's not the quickest horse in the world but he can keep that pace up, you don't necessarily have to have a turn of foot in the Grand Annual."

A "few people in the yard" backed the longest-priced winner of the meeting but formal celebration of the stable's first festival victory will wait.

"We are going to organise a party for the yard in a few weeks when we can get the owner and jockey and everybody together and celebrate properly," Case said. "It's difficult to take it all in on the same day."

Croco Bay: could give jockey Kielan Woods more reason to celebrate if he runs at Punchestown

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He's done everything we've asked of him this season. He's only seven and we hope he has plenty of time on front of him
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