Oscar defends Aintree crown
Oscar Whisky beat Thousand Stars in a repeat of last-year's John Smith's Aintree Hurdle.
Nicky Henderson's star (9-4) was well-held in the World Hurdle at Cheltenham but appreciated the drop in trip here and showed plenty of determination under Barry Geraghty to pip the runner-up.
Thousand Stars (7-1) tried to mow down the winner late on under Paul Townend but the line came in time for the Seven Barrows inmate.
The pace was set by Rock On Ruby and Noel Fehily but he faded after the second-last flight, whilst stablemate Zarkandar (2-1 fav) took a crunching fall at the sixth hurdle.
Jockey Ruby Walsh was prone on the floor for a minute after the incident but along with the horse, thankfully emerged without serious injury.
Henderson said: "It was a complete re-run of last year. I do feel sorry for the grey horse (Thousand Strides) - another two strides last year he won it and another two strides he might have had us today.
"We tried him over three miles and he had a hard race in Cheltenham. He was quite wobbly after the race and he blatantly didn't get it (the trip) and he was very tired.
"We needed every day we've had after Cheltenham as he came back very tired.
"I just wondered if we had enough time to get him back. The boys have done brilliantly at home. They help me with them so much and it's thanks to them.
"To get him back after what happened at Cheltenham was tremendous. Maybe I ran him in the wrong race there.
"There's a possibility he may go over fences (next season). We'll have to have a talk about it.
"If it went horribly wrong, he may end up in the Champion Hurdle."
Geraghty said: "I was up there with Rock On Ruby and it had to be a bit of a balancing act with Thousand Stars nipping at our heels.
"We went a nice gallop. We didn't go quick. We went a nice pace. It could have been a crawl. I don't think that was going to suit anyone."
Oscar Whisky's owner Dai Walters said: "It's a dream come true. Nicky and his team have got him here and I've got to thank them very much."
Irish champion trainer Willie Mullins said of Thousand Stars: "His run at Cheltenham took the edge off him and I'm delighted with the run.
"He's only halfway through his season as we've got Punchestown and back to Paris to think about."
Harry Fry, assistant trainer to Paul Nicholls who trains Rock On Ruby at a satellite yard, said: "He just wants a truly run two-mile race. He's jumped OK, but he was there to be shot at in front and was just idling.
"That's him finished for the season and it will all be geared around Cheltenham (Champion Hurdle) in March.
"We'll see if Overturn is there to go a good gallop, otherwise we'll have to find something else to set a good pace."
Although Walsh appeared to be largely unscathed on rising, it was a heavy fall and the British Horseracing Authority soon announced he would be stood down for the rest of the day, meaning he missed the ride on On His Own in the Grand National.