Henderson seeks Oscar clues
Nicky Henderson has nominated the Cleeve Hurdle at the Cheltenham as being the next target for Oscar Whisky.
The Seven Barrows trainer remains convinced Dai Walters' classy performer will get that trip despite failing in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle on his only previous attempt at last year's Festival.
The Cleeve is the next race for Oscar Whisky after his planned run in the Centaur Hurdle over an extended two and a half miles at Cheltenham on New Year's Day was ruined by the weather.
"Plans have changed dramatically, losing the race at Cheltenham over his favourite trip which is two and a half," Henderson told Channel 4 Racing. "We've lost that, and the Welsh Champion Hurdle has now become a handicap which has slightly confused us all as well.
"I'm still not convinced about last year's World Hurdle. He would not have won at two and a half and that is what confuses me. I don't think he was right.
"He was punch drunk at the end of it, he couldn't stand up. What was amazing about him was to come back in time for Aintree.
"Our main objective is a third Aintree Hurdle, but I'm still not going to lie down about this three-mile bit and if it was soft ground a lot of people would say go Champion Hurdle.
"He just cruises through two and a half and I cannot believe he's not going to get three.
"Now we have lost our two opportunities the obvious thing to do is to use the Cleeve Hurdle at the end of the month and just try that three miles once and for all and answer the question.
"If the answer is no, then fine. He either comes back to the Champion or we just wait for Aintree."
As for the Champion Hurdle, Henderson has three leading contenders in Darlan, Grandouet and Binocular as well as a possible fourth in Oscar Whisky.
"Grandouet is a very classy horse, but it all went wrong last year, literally just a week before the Champion Hurdle," he said.
"He had an infection in a hind joint and it ruled him out of Cheltenham and the rest of the season.
"That was a good comeback at Cheltenham the other day. He must be sharper for it.
"One would like to give him another run. There are alternatives. Somebody can go to Ireland for the Irish Champion Hurdle, there's the Contenders Hurdle at Sandown, the Kingwell at Wincanton and there's a rather good race, the Morebattle at Kelso, that we won last year with Simonsig.
"Those are really the only four options for them, so between them we are going to spread them around and hopefully get it right."
Darlan, impressive winner of the Christmas Hurdle and Binocular, the Champion Hurdle hero of 2010, are both owned by JP McManus.
"Binocular is a little bit behind. He came in a little bit later than the others," said Henderson.
"The Champion Hurdle was a funny race last year. He missed the last and finished fourth. He had a good summer out and looks magnificent.
"He's in really good form. It's just a matter of where we start him now.
"It's finding the prep races for them. It's lovely having a team like this, but it's where they go and we do have to spread them out. There aren't that many opportunities."