Lisnagar Oscar caused a 50-1 upset as reigning champion Paisley Park disappointed in the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Making smooth progress on the near side, Lisnager Oscar hit the front before the final flight in the hands of Adam Wedge, to put trainer Rebecca Curtis back in the big time.
Lisnagar Oscar galloped on strongly up the hill to hold the challenge of Ronald Pump (20-1) by two lengths, with Bacardys (33-1) a further three lengths away in third place.
Apple’s Jade had set a decent gallop and opened up a big led until she came back to the field after the third-last flight.
The runners bunched up, with several horses in with a chance two out, but it was Lisnagar Oscar who proved strongest to claim the coveted prize.
Curits, recording her fifth Festival success, 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.”
Curtis has only recently had a baby girl, named Reeva, and added: “I had a cesarean and had a couple of weeks to recover, then I was straight back on it, as I hate sitting home doing nothing and I was straight back at the yard. You can’t have time off running a yard. You just get on with it.
“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.”
Last year’s winner Paisley Park looked to be in trouble some way out and faded to finish seventh.
His trainer Emma 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.”