Oscar Whisky Doubles Up in Aintree Hurdle
1 Oscar Whisky 9/4
Dai Walters’ Oscar Whisky fought hard to see off Thousand Stars and Champion Hurdle winner Rock On Ruby to land his second consecutive victory in the John Smith’s Aintree Hurdle.
Winning trainer Nicky Henderson said: “That was a replay of last year. I do feel sorry for the grey horse [Thousand Stars] - another two strides and he’d have been ahead of us, just like last year.
“We tried three miles [with Oscar Whisky, in the World Hurdle] and he had a very hard race at Cheltenham. He blatantly didn’t get the trip and was very tired after the race. He was very wobbly that day.
“We’ve had the extra week and there was work to do with him, so it’s amazing that he’s run to the pound again with Thousand Stars.
"The boys have done a great job with him at home. He's done really well to get back for this."
Looking ahead to next season, Henderson added: "He jumps really well and he'll have to go over a fence at some stage."
Owner Dai Walters said: "It's a dream come true. I'm just so delighted for Nicky Henderson's team. I have to thank them all very much."
THREE OUT OF THREE FOR GERAGHTY AS OSCAR WHISKY DEFENDS HIS AINTREE HURDLE CROWN
Oscar Whisky held off the late surge from Thousand Stars by a neck to add a second Grade One to his CV after winning his second John Smith’s Aintree Hurdle. He was found wanting for stamina in last month’s Ladbrokes World Hurdle, but the return to two and a half miles saw him in a far better light and Barry Geraghty believes this is his ideal trip.
Geraghty said: “Rock On Ruby went on and I was happy to follow him as that was the plan. I always felt coming out of the back-straight that I had him covered, but it was a case of delaying my challenge because I knew Thousand Stars and Zarkandar, who crashed out, would be nipping at our heels.
“We went a good gallop, we didn’t go quick, but we didn’t go a crawl either which it could have been. On his form maybe we went for the wrong race at Cheltenham, but a stiff two miles or two and a half miles will be fine.”
STARS A STAR AGAIN, AND NO DISGRACE FOR ROCK ON RUBY
The Willie Mullins-trained Thousand Stars went down by just a neck, while a further five lengths behind was the Stan James Champion Hurdle winner Rock On Ruby.
Mullins said: “He’s run a terrific race because I didn’t think he was in such good form compared to last year and it looked a hotter race. He stayed on right to the line and looked like getting there, but maybe the winner had a bit up his sleeve.
“Last year we went from here to Punchestown and then Auteuil, and I should think we’ll do the same again. He’s one of those good soldiers you can pull out and they run their A-game every time.”
Mullins added of Hurricane Fly, who was beaten into third when favourite for the Stan James Champion Hurdle and is also likely to run at Punchestown: “He’s in good form - you would think he’d won at Cheltenham!”
Harry Fry, an assistant to Paul Nicholls, the trainer of Rock On Ruby, said: “We were the sitting duck. He wants a truly-run two miles with a good lead. He jumped well enough but he was in front doing the donkey work for everyone else.
“Next time we’ll make sure we put something into the race that can go a good gallop. That’s him finished for the season and everything will be geared around Cheltenham next March and a repeat attempt on the Champion Hurdle.”
Donald McCain’s Overturn set the pace in the race this year before finishing second, and Fry added: “Whether Overturn is there or not we’ll make sure we put in one of our own.”
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