Geraghty deserts defending champ Oscar Whisky in Aintree Hurdle
With Aintree less than a month after the Cheltenham Festival it may seem logical that those who proved themselves champions at the March event would assert their superiority over the contemporaries once more when they arrive here in March. However, a combination of some runners being trained to peak at Cheltenham along with a much flatter track and Grade 1 races at different, usually longer, distances tends to see a lot of favourites sully their Cheltenham halos.
The Aintree Hurdle is a classic example. The Aintree race for Champion Hurdle types its’ been won by horses who took part in that Cheltenham contest just four times in the last decade with Rock On Ruby and Peddlers Cross beaten favourites in the past two runnings.
The New One is ante post favourite with Coral at 3/1, but the last Neptune Novices Hurdle winner to follow up in this test over the same trip is Danoli in 1994.
In theory the one they’ll all have to beat is disappointing Festival performer Oscar Whisky, a two-time defending champion in this Grade 1 event who has lost just once in seven runs at trips around the 2m4f mark. There is a note of caution surrounding Nicky Henderson’s runner with regular partner Barry Geraghty suggesting the horse hadn’t travelled convincingly on either of his last two starts. However, in his favour, a below par performance in the World Hurdle also served as a leg up to victory in this race last year and he can be backed at 6/1.
Those searching for omens regarding Oscar Whiskey’s well-being may be interested to see that Barry Geraghty has forsaken him in favour of Champion Hurdle faller Grandouet. This rates as an interesting decision given the 9/2 shot looks to be at his best over the miniumum trip rather than the 2m4f of the Aintree race. He’s failed to win six of his eight runs at trips beyond 2m dead.