Fifth time lucky for Oscar Whisky?
Oscar Whisky has become a standing dish at the Cheltenham Festival and once again heads to Prestbury Park with what look like leading credentials in the JLT Novices’ Chase.
Nicky Henderson’s charge is a 7/1 chance with Coral and his profile going into the contest ticks plenty of the right boxes.
He is officially rated 156, and that is much higher than the last three winners of the contest. Noble Prince was rated 146 when winning in 2011, Sir Des Champs ran off 148 in 2012, and last year’s winner Benefficient was rated 147.
That suggests Oscar Whisky has more than enough class required, and another plus is that two of his three wins over fences this season have come at the track over 2m 5f.
The drop back in trip to 2m 4f will not inconvenience him in any way, and he comes into thecontest on the back of 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 runin.
The nine-year-old looks to have everything going for him, but for the fact that he has failed to get his head in front in four previous runs at the Festival.
He 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.
The gelding was widely expected to serve it up to Big Buck’s in the 2012 running of the stayers’ championship but could finish only a well beaten fifth.
He was the sent off the 9/4 favourite for last year’s renewal but flopped badly and was pulled up.
So can he finally come good on the big day and bag that elusive Festival victory?
Early signs suggest he can, as this year is that he has been specifically trained for this race. Unlike the last two years, when he has held entries in both the Champion Hurdle and World Hurdle, the JLT is the only race on his agenda this time around.
Connections have clearly geared his whole season around this target, and as a result Oscar Whisky can reap the dividends.