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Oscar Whisky to put down marker for Cheltenham Festival

One of the most exciting hurdlers of the past few seasons goes over bigger obstacles for the first time as Oscar Whisky lines up in the Cheltenham Open meeting’s novice chase.

Nicky Henderson’s classy gelding is the 4/6 favourite in the four-runner 2.05 and can see off main danger Taquin Du Seuil at Prestbury Park.

Oscar Whisky is 16/1 fifth-favourite for the Arkle at the Cheltenham Festival and a clear round here in his debut over fences could see that price shorten considerably.

The eight-year-old is taking to chasing fairly late in his career after 13 wins in 20 hurdles races since March 2009.

Four of those wins have been around Cheltenham and regular jockey Barry Geraghty – who’s been on board for all of Oscar Whisky’s win – is back in the saddle, after AP McCoy failed to steer the horse to a third Aintree Hurdle win in a row back in April at the Grand National meeting.

Henderson’s charge was disappointing over 3 miles when pulling-up in the World Hurdle at the last Cheltenham Festival, but he has looked like a chaser in the making for some time and will get the good ground he prefers in this 2m 4f renewal.

Second-favourite at 2/1 is Taquin Du Seuil, trained by Jonjo O’Neill with McCoy on board.

The six-year-old won three of his five races over hurdles and crushed a small field in his first try over fences at Ffos Las in October.

However, McCoy’s mount did not jump like a born chaser in Wales and Taquin Du Seuil’s last three wins have come on bottomless ground.

The gelding finished a poor sixth out of eight on his last visit to the Cotswolds in the Neptune Novice’s Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival and is easily opposed here under a penalty.

High-class chasers Imperial Commander, Grand Crus and Dynaste have taken this race in recent years and Oscar Whisky can emulate those stars with a winning start to his new career.