Lisnagar Oscar ran out a shock 50-1 winner as 2019 hero Paisley Park flopped in the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle on the third day of the 2020 Cheltenham Festival.
Paisley Park had made it ladies first for trainer Emma Lavelle on this day last season – but despite being sent off the 4-6 favourite to retain his crown it was another female trainer Rebecca Curtis who took Grade One glory this time.
Under Adam Wedge – landing his first Cheltenham Festival winner – Lisnagar Oscar powered up the hill to score by two lengths and it was two other outsiders who filled the places, with Ronald Pump (20-1) second and Barcardys (33-1) a further three lengths back in third.
Apple’s Jade set a searching gallop going clear of the field at a wide margin for much of the three-mile contest. But as Gordon Elliott’s mare tired the challengers arrived, among them Lisnagar Oscar. With Paisley Park unable to go with them on the run for home, the winner hit the front at the final flight and galloped all the way to line. The favourite came home a distant seventh.
It was joy for Curtis, who has only recently had a baby, and a welcome return to the big time for the Welsh handler.
Curtis, landing her fifth Festival victory, said: “It’s a shock he’s won. I didn’t think he’d beat Paisley Park, but I was hoping we’d have a good run here after the last time. It was like he’d just got his confidence back the last time. I’m just speechless.
“He was so well at home and I thought 50-1 was a massive price.
“Last year he had very good form as a novice. I thought he’d make a lovely chaser, but he didn’t take to fences. He’s quite small and is quick and neat over his hurdles.
“We tried fences early in the season. It all went wrong. Whether that put him off racing for a bit, I don’t know. Something just wasn’t quite right with him.
“He had Grade Three ulcers. Whether that has made a massive difference, I don’t know. He just sprung to form six weeks ago and we fancied him to run well today.”
She added: “It is absolutely amazing at a time when I need it, as I’m just trying to rebuild the yard. We’ve had four winners here before, but it has been five years, so it is just great to have another one.
“He (Wedge) is brilliant, such a solid jockey, so I’m delighted for him as it’s his first Festival win.”
Wedge said: “Unbelievable, it’s fantastic. The little horse has tried his heart out. I couldn’t believe it when I hit the front, I was just praying he’d keep galloping – he fought like a little lion up that hill.”
On last year’s winner Paisley Park, Lavelle said: “We’re massively disappointed, but it’s just one of those things – they’re not machines.
“He’s such a gorgeous horse and he’s come back absolutely fine. He’s been amazing horse for us who has done amazing things and I’m sure he’ll do amazing things again.
“It’s a shame it didn’t happen today. I never really felt he was alive during the race – he just looked to be going through the motions, rather than tanking through the race as he has been doing, and his jumping wasn’t quite as slick.
“It’s dead old ground out there and that probably doesn’t play to his strengths. He’s lost two shoes – I think they were probably just suctioned off by the ground while he was running!
“I’m delighted for Adam Wedge, who rides a lot for us.”