13.30 Cheltenham: Whisky can break Cheltenham hoodoo in JLT
Oscar Whisky and Taquin Du Seuil lock horns for a third time, and the former is taken to come out on top and make it fifth time lucky at the Cheltenham Festival by winning the JLT Novices’ Chase.
Nicky Henderson’s gelding failed by just a 1/4 of a length to overhaul Taquin when they first met at the track back in November, but then gained his revenge in the Grade 2 Dipper Novices’ Chase on New Year’s Day, where he only had to be driven out to score with more in hand than the winning margin of 3/4 of a length suggests.
Since then has gone on to make it three on the bounce with a gutsy nine-length win in the Grade 1 Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase at Sandown, where the very testing conditions were against him and he had to dig deep before asserting on the run-in.
The nine-year-old will certainly appreciate the better ground that he now encounters, and the 2m 4f trip looks absolutely ideal.
Having finished fourth in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2010 and a fine third in the Champion Hurdle in 2011, before disappointing badly in the last two runnings of the World Hurdle, this looks a golden opportunity for him to bag his first success at the prestigious four-day meeting.
The obvious danger is Taquin Du Seuil, who was put up by trainer Jonjo O’Neill as his best chance of the week.
Given that the trainer has already saddled Holywell to score on the opening day, that has to be seen as a positive.
The seven-year-old won a Grade 2 contest at Haydock last time out by 17 lengths without coming off the bridle, making it three wins out of five over fences, and is clearly progressing with each run.
However, the strapping son of Voix Du Nord has shown all his best form with give in the ground and the quicker going that he now encounters, could well find him tapped for toe in the early stages and put his jumping under pressure.
He could well find himself with plenty to do if that is the case, and that makes Oscar Whisky look the safer betting proposition.
The best outsider could well be Henry De Bromhead’s unexposed Sizing Gold, who was a smart hurdler that scored in impressive fashion on his second start over fences when winning by four lengths at Navan over 2m 4f.
He then found the step up in trip to 3m against him when beaten last time out by Foxrock at Naas, and the drop back to 2m 4f is likely to see him in a far better light.