Andrew Gemmell, owner of Paisley Park (left) and jockey Aidan Coleman celebrate after winning the Sun Racing Stayers’ Hurdle (Andrew Matthews/PA)Owner Andrew Gemmell is feeling a mixture of nerves and excitement ahead of Paisley Park’s return in the Ladbrokes Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury.

Last season’s Stayers’ Hurdle hero will take the first step towards the defence of his crown at the Cheltenham Festival in March in the three-mile Grade Two contest on November 29.

The Emma Lavelle-trained seven-year-old warmed up for his return to action with a racecourse gallop alongside stablemate Hawk’s Well at the Berkshire course last week.

Gemmell said: “I am looking forward to seeing him back, but I will be a little bit anxious at Newbury. However, you have got to just hope for the best.

“The first race is just a starting point and we will take it from there. We would like to think it is more of the same this season and you would think it would take a good one to beat him.

“We are there to be shot at this season and it is a bit worrying, but the most important thing is that he stays sound and we crack on.”

Despite Paisley Park confirming himself as the star of the staying hurdle division, Gemmell still has to pinch himself when considering what his pride and joy has achieved over the past 12 months.

He said: “The whole thing just spiralled from starting at Aintree running off 140, then we went on and won the Fixed Brush Hurdle at Haydock. I then pushed for the Long Walk and that went well.

“We had the two Cheltenham races and it was unbelievable. The way we won the Cleeve, I thought we were in business for the Stayers’ Hurdle then.

“My nerves were horrendous at the Festival, but it wouldn’t have been quite as bad if we weren’t favourite.”

Having supplied one of the feel-good stories of the last National Hunt campaign, Gemmell is keen to continue enjoying his spell in the limelight – providing Paisley Park delivers the goods on track.

He added: “I can’t believe it in some ways and it has been a real thrill. I never believed that it would be like this.

“It has been unbelievable after waiting all those years for something to happen and it finally did last season.

“I love it and I want to embrace it, as it won’t last forever.”

Paisley Park could be in for an outing at Punchestown at the end of the season (Paul Harding/PA)
Paisley Park could be set for an outing at Punchestown at the end of the season (Paul Harding/PA)

Though Paisley Park did not run beyond Cheltenham last season, Gemmell is already dreaming of a crack at the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle at Punchestown in April this term.

He said: “If we can do Cheltenham, hopefully we can go to Punchestown after and that would be brilliant.

“We are a month later starting with him, so there is no reason why we can’t go there as long as he stays sound.”