Oscar Whisky off
the mark over fences
Report: Cheltenham, Friday
Ryman Stationary Cheltenham Business Club Noves' Chase 2m5f, 4yo+
HIGH-CLASS hurdler Oscar Whisky got off the mark at the second time of asking over fences when he claimed Cheltenham's novice chase on Friday.
He was beaten on his chasing debut at the track last month in a race trainer Nicky Henderson described as a farce.
However, the eight-year-old made no mistake under Barry Geraghty.
Conscious of the way Oscar Whisky was beaten by the smart Taquin Du Seuil last time, Geraghty grabbed an early lead and Dai Walters' pride and joy jumped well for much of the contest.
He was tracked by Wonderful Charm, unbeaten in three chases this term and conceding 8lb to his big rival.
The race began to hot up turning for home when the confident-looking Geraghty began peering round to check how Wonderful Charm was going.
The Paul Nicholls-trained son of Poliglote was travelling well enough and the two market leaders jumped the last together with the 4-5 favourite emerging on top by half a length.
Paddy Power left the pair at 10-1 for the Jewson Novices' Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, while Betfred made Oscar Whisky 7-1 (from 12) for that race. They also went 12-1 (from 14) for the Racing Post Arkle.
Wonderful Charm lost little in defeat and is 10-1 (from 12) with Ladbrokes for the RSA Chase.
The Dipper Novices' Chase at Cheltenham on January 1 will be next for Oscar Whisky, according to Henderson.
"Everyone knew it was going to be a tactical race and nobody probably doubted what our tactics would have to be," said the champion trainer.
"There was no point doing anything other than make the running, but one day I hope we'll be able to get a lead.
Nicky Henderson: "I thought he jumped well today"PICTURE: Getty
"I know it's a bit late to be changing disciplines but I thought he jumped well today."
Geraghty was also pleased with the performance from the two-time Grade 1-winning hurdler, who also has a Champion Hurdle third on his cv.
The jockey added: "He won well and I think there's still a bit of improvement in him. He jumped a little to his right, not an awful lot. He's a lot of scope, was very clever and as tough as nails at the finish.
"I was never anxious. I had a peep and saw Daryl and knew he'd have to be very speedy to get by me.
"He's going to improve an awful lot and is a much better chaser than I thought he'd be."
Nicholls, who confirmed the Jewson as Wonderful Charm's main target, said: "To give 8lb to Oscar Whisky and come so close was an awesome performance.
"He has got experience of the track today and he won't run again now until the Festival. He'll get an entry for the RSA but it's 99.9 per cent certain that he'll run in the Jewson."