Oscar Whisky facing another tactical race
Ryman Stationery Cheltenham Business Club Novices' Chase | 2m5f, 4yo+ | C4, RUK
TACTICS more than talent arguably influenced the outcome of Oscar Whisky's first run over fences and it may be a similar story today when Nicky Henderson's dual Grade 1-winning hurdle winner returns to Cheltenham for an intriguing showdown with Wonderful Charm, three-times a winner over fences in recent weeks.
Oscar Whisky was 4-6 favourite at the Paddy Power meeting last month, but everything went wrong from the word go. Distracted by the reluctance of a rival at the first fence, he was almost on the floor and then Barry Geraghty had no option but to make the running as the pace dropped to a farcial level.
Even Tony McCoy, whose mount Taquin Du Seuil beat Oscar Whisky by a neck, said in the debrief: "That was not a nice race to ride in."
Today once again there is no obvious front-runner. Captain Ocana has on occasions cut out the pace, including when winning in midsummer, but that was when he was trained in Ireland before joining Paul Henderson in the autumn.
Oscar Whisky's trainer Nicky Henderson said yesterday: "We don't like to make the running because he tends to do too much in front. It was a farce of a race last time with the leader almost coming to a stop at the first fence and, under the circumstances, it was a pleasing start to Oscar Whisky's chasing career. He has the experience now and he loves the trip and track."
If Oscar Whisky is once again forced to do the donkey work, there is always the danger of Wonderful Charm, who has a turn of foot, shadowing him and then pouncing. On BHA hurdle ratings, Wonderful Charm is 15lb adrift of Oscar Whisky.
Paul Nicholls, trainer of Wonderful Charm, indicated yesterday that a lead would be beneficial. He said: "Pace doesn't really matter but it would help because he doesn't want to be in front too soon. He has won his three races showing a great turn of foot."
He added: "He likes good ground and that's why we're taking this opportunity before we put him away for the winter."
David Pipe, who runs Close House: "He has schooled all right at home but has something to find on hurdle ratings."
Cheltenham good on hurdle and chase tracks, good, good to firm in places on cross-country course
Bangor good to soft, good in places over hurdles, good to soft, soft in places on chase course
Downpatrick good, yielding in places
Today's key pointers
Since November 2011, owner Tim Leslie's record with his runners at Bangor is 611111P225111P3111 for a level-stakes profit of £24.06 to a £1 stake. Up And Go has to be of interest in the novice chase at 12.10.
Jockey Michael Byrne is 4/10 when riding for trainer Tim Vaughan in chases restricted to conditional jockeys, for a level-stakes profit of £22.00. He has been booked to ride Ballymoat in Cheltenham's 1.05.
Seven of the eight previous runnings of the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase at Cheltenham (2.40) have been won by Irish-trained horses. The only exception came in 2005 when Ivoire De Beaulieu won for Ferdy Murphy.
Pointers courtesy of Raceform Interactive