Whisky completes double for Henderson


Racing:Oscar Whisky emerged as a potent Stan James Champion Hurdle understudy to stablemate Binocular when completing a high profile 15-1 double for Nicky Henderson and Barry Geraghty in the Cheltenham & Three Counties Club Hurdle.

Last season’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle fourth returned to the fray with as exciting a performance as we have seen from a hurdler in Britain this season, bar possibly that of Menorah in the International.

Stepping up to two and a half miles and the subject of widespread morning support, the six-year-old literally toyed with solid yardsticks such as Karabak and Celestial Halo, and then found another gear to go seven lengths clear of Any Given Day when Geraghty changed his hands approaching the final flight.

William Hill slashed his Champion Hurdle odds to 12-1 from 33s, while Paddy Power introduced him into their list at the same price.

All roads now lead to Ffos Las and the Welsh Champion Hurdle, as Oscar Whisky’s owner Dai Walters also owns that Carmarthenshire course.

Henderson was quick to point out that in spite of getting every yard of the trip off a strong pace, it will be back to the minimum distance for his authoritative winner.

The Seven Barrows handler said: “We can bring him back to two miles now and decide whether we go for the Champion after that.

“We were going for the Christmas Hurdle, but as it’s now on January 15 it would have been perilously close to the Welsh Champion and that has always been his major target. The thing to remember is that this was only his fourth run over hurdles. He’s got buckets of speed and has had a good blow. He’s still learning, and will improve.”

Earlier Bobs Worth had advertised his own Festival claims with a clear cut success in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle.

The 3-1 favourite was in contention throughout and readily pulled two and a quarter lengths clear of Rose Of The Moon up the hill.

Henderson feels the handicapper might have his say, thereby making a tilt at the EBF Final unlikely.

Consequently, Sky Bet cut the winner from 20s into 14s for the Neptune Investment Novices’ Hurdle in March.

Henderson said: “He’s not one of those flashy horses at home. He just goes out, gets on with the job and does his work. He has a lovely temperament and a very good attitude to life.”

Tartak (7-1) could find his way back to Cheltenham in March for the Ryanair Chase after arriving late on the scene to nail Henderson’s Carole’s Legacy in the victorchandler.com Handicap Chase.

Tom George has not had much to shout about this season, and said after Paddy Brennan had galvanised his winner: “I went to bed at eleven and had had enough of the year. Let’s hope the new one carries on in the way it’s started.”

He added: “We’ve changed a few things with this horse. Paddy schooled him over eight fences the other day and we put a tongue tie on. I would think he’d go the same way as Albertas Run last year, with the Ascot Chase next and then the Ryanair.”

Blazing Bailey returned to a semblance of his top class form of old when landing the Raceodds Handicap Chasefor Alan King and new father Robert Thornton, but the race was marred by the death of Joe Lively, who was put down after breaking a leg.

Joe Lively’s trainer Colin Tizzard found it hard to talk about his stricken star after saddling Hell’s Bay to spring a 16-1 surprise in the Tigmi Travel Dipper Novices’ Chase.

Hell’s Bay and Joe Tizzard gamely thwarted Thornton on Medermit by three-quarters of a length. Ironically, it was on Hell’s Bay that Thornton sustained the knee injury at Newton Abbot last July that kept him out until last month.

However, Tizzard snr was fighting his emotions over Joe Lively, a multiple winner, and said only: “I had a lump in my throat watching him jump round in the National last season. He gave us some lovely highs but I have to say this game takes a bit of sticking at times.”

The skybet.com Handicap Hurdleproved a benefit for David Pipe who sent out the first three as Ashkazar (20-1) came late under Timmy Murphy to wear down Junior and Chartreux.

There was a rousing finish to the Junior Bumper in which Roger Charlton’s Keys (3-1 favourite) responded to some hard driving from Brennan to pip Cinders And Ashes.

Brennan was completing a double but his mount had to survive a stewards’ inquiry after the pair came close on the run-in and Jason Maguire on the runner-up was given a one-day ban for excessive use of the whip.