There won’t have been many more “bankers” for a Cheltenham Festival than Paisley Park in 2020.
The reigning Stayers’ Hurdle champion was a 4/6 shot to retain his crown and extend his winning run to eight.
Adam Wedge and Lisnigar Oscar, however, had other ideas.
The Welsh trained gelding, representing Rebecca Curtis, was a 50/1 shot to overturn the Cleeve Hurdle form with the 2019 winner.
Not given a chance by those outside of Fforest Farm, clearly. But that didn’t stop a two-length romp of Ronald Pump at Prestbury Park, giving Wedge his first-ever Festival success.
That Gloucestershire success sandwiched two other Grade 1’s that he’s achieved in the saddle. Esprit Du Large landed the King Henry VII at Sandown in December 2019, before Silver Streak won the Christmas Hurdle a year later.
And there’s the small matter of the Welsh National heroics in January. Not a bad couple of seasons all in all.
In a career spanning back to 2010, Wedge is now chasing down 400 winners as a professional pilot. Of his winners to date, it’s hard to envisage any were more special than that Festival success twelve months ago.
Can Lisnigar Oscar scupper the Stayers’ division once again? Adam spoke to cheltenham.co.uk’s Reece Charlton about life outside racing, what the Cheltenham Festival means to him and racing in general.
You have won the Scottish, Welsh and Midlands Grand National, how much would you like to add The Grand National to your CV?
To win the Grand National would be absolutely fantastic. Having won the Scottish and Welsh is brilliant, but the pinnacle is the Grand National. It’s the race everyone wants to win.
Describe the feeling when you landed your first Grade 1 aboard Esprit Du Large in the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown in 2019?
Winning my first Grade 1 with Esprit Du Large meant the absolute world to me. To win it for William and Angela (Rucker) and Evan (Williams) who have supported me from a 10lb claimer is absolutely fantastic. To ride it for them meant more than anything.
What makes the Cheltenham Festival so special for you?
The Cheltenham Festival is just so special because you get the best of the best horses in every race and it’s so competitive. To ride a winner there is why we get up at 5am every morning!
If you could choose one horse to ride at this year’s Cheltenham Festival, who would you pick?
I would find it hard to pick between Energumene or Monkfish. Energumene looks very very exciting and Monkfish just looks a fantastic ride and travels so strongly through those staying trips.
Lisnagar Oscar spoiled the Paisley Park party last year, how do you rate his chances this time around?
Lisnagar Oscar ran a fantastic race at Haydock after a wind op and I think this is his time of year now. The ground just getting a bit better and I think he can put up a big show once again.
What advice would you give to anyone wishing to forge a career in the horse racing industry?
Work hard, keep your head down and enjoy every moment.
Favourite racecourse and why?
It has to be Chepstow for me, It’s nice, local and a lovely track to ride at.
Do you have any hobbies or interests outside of racing?
I love walking my dogs, that’s all I do really!
Which jockey past or present has influenced you the most?
It would have to be Paul Moloney. Having learnt a lot from him coming up through Evan’s yard, he gave me some very valuable information and passed down a lot of knowledge to me.
Describe yourself in three words?
Motivated, honest and hard-working.
Jockeys. A different breed.