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Oscar Whisky has to dig deep at Sandown
3:30pm Sunday 2nd February 2014 in Sport
Oscar Whisky already has a couple of Grade One wins from his days as a high-class hurdler but he was required to dig pretty deep in order to earn his first over fences in the Betfred TV Scilly Isles Novices' Chase at Sandown.
Lambourn trainer Nicky Henderson knew what he would be getting when he brought the nine-year-old down to Esher and conceded that many of his other leading names would not have been risked in what were particularly arduous conditions.
Oscar Whisky, though, whose previous three chasing starts had been at his second home of Cheltenham, was apparently in dire need of another outing before he takes up his only Festival entry in the JLT Novices' Chase.
Sent off the 1-6 favourite against just a couple of rivals, he was made to look a distinctly sloppy jumper by the slick Manyriverstocross, who put him under some pressure and Geraghty needed to chase his mount along to keep pace.
But Dai Walters’ gelding, who has drawn a blank at the Festival so far, was good enough to land two Aintree Hurdles and managed to get the upper hand by the final fence to draw a slightly flattering nine lengths clear up the hill.
“It was hard work, we went very quick,” said Geraghty.
“Choc (Robert Thornton, on Manyriverstocross) travelled brilliantly and was throwing on the coal from early and I was struggling a lot of the way.
“I always felt coming away from the Railway fences there was a little bit there when I needed it.
“He was good at the last, he was very quick, and that made the difference, I delayed my challenge a little bit as he'd been sluggish through the race, there was no point getting involved too early.
“Cheltenham will be totally different. He has coped with soft ground but in top company he's better on good to soft."William Hill eased Oscar Whisky to 10-1 from 8s for the Festival.
Clerk of the course Andrew Cooper had made a late decision to allow the meeting to take place and he was given deserving praise.
Henderson said: “It was hard work but it was always going to be, they've done well to race.
“He’s a stuffy devil, and while I would never run Bobs Worth or My Tent Or Yours on this you’ve just got to keep this horse going.
“He kept taking blows all the way through and he looked big, but that race will have been good for him and we are very much on schedule for Cheltenham - he loves the two and a half miles round there.”