Aintree 2015: Silver Cross Stayers’ Hurdle preview (14:50)
Whisper shaped really well last time out, and looks decent value to land back-to-back successes at Aintree on Grand National day in the Silver Cross Stayers’ Hurdle (14:50).
Trained by Nicky Henderson, this gelding was a progressive sort last season, beating Get Me Out Of Here in the ultra-competitive Coral Cup at the Cheltenham Festival before following up in this with a one-length success over At Fisher’s Cross.
The seven-year-old showed a good attitude to dig deep and find extra when challenged on the run-in, and finished 9 3/4 lengths in front of the fourth home Zarkandar who is again amongst the opposition.
Since then, Whisper has had just two starts, finishing runner-up on seasonal reappearance in a novice chase at Exeter before being switched back to the smaller obstacles and posting a solid effort to finish fifth of 16 to Cole Harden in the World Hurdle at last month’s Cheltenham Festival.
Henderson feared that Whisper may well have been short of peak fitness going into the contest, so in the circumstances there was lots to like about the the son of Astarabad kept on well to be beaten 10 1/2 lengths after a mistake four from home.
Whisper is entitled to improve again for that run and, with the ground ideal, I can see him turning the tables on Cole Harden and the third home Zarkandar.
Cole Harden got the run of the race in the World Hurdle under a fine ride from Gavin Sheehan, making all and kicking clear around the home turn to score by just over three lengths from Saphir Du Rheu.
It was a massive step-up on what the six-year-old had previously achieved, and Cole Harden had luck on his side as Zarkandar was cruising into contention when making a horrific error two from home.
Jockey Noel Fehily did miracles to stay in the saddle, and Zarkandar did remarkably well to recover and stay on again to snatch third.
To me, the Paul Nicholls trained eight-year-old would have won but for the mistake and I fancy him to turn the tables on Cole Harden and prove the biggest threat to Whisper in what is a fascinating renewal.