Nicky Henderson said Oscar Whisky "has been very good in his schooling"PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Whisky auditioning for leading role over fences
OSCAR WHISKY, one of the best hurdlers in training over the last two seasons, switches disciplines on Friday in a bid to establish whether he can take the same high rank over fences as he did over smaller obstacles.
Champion jumps trainer Nicky Henderson points him at the Steel Plate and Sections Novices' Chase, run on a track, Cheltenham, where Oscar Whisky defends a four-race unbeaten record over two and a half miles.
The last two winners of this contest were Dynaste and Grands Crus, both Grade 1 Feltham Novices' Chase winners, while Gold Cup winners Imperial Commander and Denman are also on a roll of honour which Henderson hopes Dai Walters's eight-year-old will join if he can dismiss main opponent Taquin Du Seuil.
Oscar Whisky starts chasing two years later in his life than his chief rival, but after dominating the limited two and a half mile hurdling division, finishing third in the Champion Hurdle and finding the challenge of the World Hurdle beyond him, he has nothing left to prove in that sphere.
"He has been very good in his schooling," said Henderson. "This is not the ideal place to start a novice at but he loves the place and he has been good at home. He jumped five fences this morning and he was great. Obviously he has to concentrate and do it on the track.
"He has some very good opposition, but he has to start somewhere and he might as well start somewhere he likes."
The Grade 1 Challow Hurdle was among four out of six novice hurdle wins for Taquin Du Seuil. He was rated 19lb inferior to Oscar Whisky over hurdles, but he was an easy winner of his first start over fences at Ffos Las.
Trainer Jonjo O'Neill said: "This is a tough race. He had a very easy race last time and jumped away well and if he can do the same this time we will be very happy. He has a chance of going places, but we will know more after this because it is a better race. To be fair we wouldn't have learned much from the last race, but he won well."
The going on the chase and hurdle courses is good, good to soft in places, while the cross country course is good. The forecast is largely dry but cloudy.