OSCAR Whisky will bid to conclusively prove he does get three miles when he attempts to continue Nicky Henderson’s tremendous Festival in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle.
The Dai Walters-owned gelding was sent off second favourite behind Big Buck’s 12 months ago but disappointed in fifth place.
Henderson is convinced the eight-year-old was not right that day. He said: “We were going to miss Cheltenham altogether but the absence of Big Buck’s has opened it up for everybody. I don’t think he was right last year, he was very distressed after the race.”
The stayers’ championship is an open affair and Oscar Whisky fought out a great finish with Reve De Sivola to the Cleeve Hurdle at this track in January, with the latter gaining the day by just a neck.
However, Reve De Sivola’s trainer Nick Williams believes it is far from a two-horse race. He said: “It’s a big, open race, it’s certainly not a two-horse race, and the Festival has not been a lucky place for us so far.”
Paul Nicholls pins his hopes on Wonderful Charm and Celestial Halo, who carries the Big Buck’s colours of the Stewart Family.
Peddlers Cross had Reve de Sivola back in second when winning the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle in 2010 and he was runner-up in the Champion Hurdle a year later. He is back over hurdles after mixed fortunes over fences and his trainer Donald McCain is adamant the horse retains his ability.
McCain said: “Is he the same horse he was? His home work is the same and the rest we’ll have to find out on the day. “The signs at home are positive.”
Cue Card can give Colin and Joe Tizzard another Grade One win in the Ryanair Chase.
The only horse to come remotely close to giving Sprinter Sacre a race over fences when second to him in last year’s Arkle, he has looked a very good horse this season – apart from when he failed to stay three miles in the King George.
Tom George has had a terrific season and a Festival win for Module in the Jewson Novices’ Chase can top it off.
Paddy Brennan’s face lights up when he talks about this six-year-old and rates him as his best chance of the meeting and it is not hard to see why.
He won a handicap hurdle on his debut for the yard and despite falling on his chasing bow this season, he barely came off the bridle in beating Colour Squadron at Newbury and followed up at Leicester. The cut in the ground adds further confidence.
Hunt Ball can defy top weight in the Byrne Group Plate to win at back-to-back Festivals.
Sam Winner has been all the rage for the Pertemps Final but David Pipe’s Close House arguably has as much ability.
Fourth to Simonsig in the Neptune last season, he was second to Double Ross at Cheltenham in November before winning a qualifier for this race at Wincanton on Boxing Day.
He was handed a mark of 143, which Pipe reckoned correctly was enough to get him in the race and was put away.
Vesper Bell is the choice in the Fulke Walwyn And Kim Muir Challenge Cup for Willie Mullins.
A mistake at the eighth cost him dearly on his most recent start at Punchestown, but he is better than the third place he achieved that day.
French raider Sacree Tiepy is worth a shout in the rescheduled Glenfarclas Handicap Chase over the cross-country course.