When Adam Wedge looked at his chances of gaining a breakthrough first Cheltenham Festival winner at this year’s meeting, little did he think it would come aboard Lisnagar Oscar in the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle.
With defending champion Paisley Park seemingly still at the peak of his powers and a host of potential contenders better placed to take advantage of any shortcomings, only a career-best display from the Rebecca Curtis-trained seven-year-old would be good enough to prevail.
Confidence can quite often be a key to success though, and with Wedge riding at the top of his game having already passed his best total of 59 winners along with securing a first Grade One of his career, his season to savour continued as another box was ticked on his CV.
He said: “I say it all the time – I know how wrong things can go, so I try to take every opportunity I can.
“Having 50 winners last season I’d have liked to have got that again and when I got there everything else was a bonus. Things are going well and I have the right people behind me supporting me.
“We all work hard every day – there is not one person in that weighing room that doesn’t work hard and get up at 5am to ride out every day of the week.
“To come here and get a winner like that makes it all worthwhile – it’s what we strive for every day.”
Though Lisnagar Oscar was sent off a 50-1 chance to claim the unthinkable, Wedge was quietly confident his mount – whom he finished third on in the Cleeve Hurdle at the track in January – could outperform his double-figure price tag as the race developed.
He added: “Apple’s Jade had gone off very hard and on the first circuit I was a little bit cold and I was struggling to travel.
“The second circuit he came alive underneath me coming down that hill and I was able to fill him up all the way down the hill.
“After the last I was praying he would keep galloping, and he did. He wore his heart on his sleeve and tried his heart out.
“He was all out and I don’t say he had plenty in the tank at the end of the Stayers’, but he has done it well.”
While Wedge was responsible for doing the steering aboard Lisnagar Oscar he was quick to praise the efforts of winning trainer Rebecca Curtis for ensuring the horse came to his peak at the right time.
He said: “She has got a small team, but she does very well with what she has got. She has done a fantastic job with this lad, to get him here in A1 condition.”
There may have been no fairytale third success at the meeting for the Willie Mullins-trained Faugheen, running this time in the Marsh Novices’ Chase, but stablemate Min finally laid to rest his Festival ghost at the fourth attempt with a battling victory in the Ryanair Chase.
Winning owner Rich Ricci said: “It was a great race and I got nervous all the way up the hill. Min finally got his head in front and that was fantastic.
“I thought he was going to be again today (the nearly horse) when he was coming up the hill, but on his day he is good and when he is on, he is on. He was on today and he jumped brilliantly the whole way round. I’m delighted to win. It is fantastic.”
While the victory may not have held the same status for Ricci as his two Champion Hurdle triumphs with Faugheen and Annie Power, it was one that was not lost on him.
He added: “It is always great to win here and it has been a while (since the last one). It is just great to be here with all the stuff going on and it is great that the racing is still on.
“The crowds might be down, but the enthusiasm is still the same and that is fantastic.”