Whisky chases Ascot redemption
Oscar Whisky bids to atone for his fall at the final flight last year as he tackles the Coral Hurdle at Ascot tomorrow.
Nicky Henderson's charge was upsides Overturn and seemed to have every chance in the two-and-a-half-mile heat when crashing out at the last hurdle.
That was the only slight disappointment in an otherwise fruitful campaign that culminated in a second Aintree Hurdle win in April.
The seven-year-old boasts an excellent record in that he has never been beaten away from Cheltenham when completing the course.
Henderson said: "Two and a half miles is blatantly his optimum trip.
"He was out on his feet after Cheltenham - he was very wobbly after the race - but to beat Thousand Stars by a neck at Aintree was fantastic.
"He'll go to Cheltenham at December and Cheltenham in January.
"Then we'll switch back to two miles for the Welsh Champion Hurdle, which was off last year.
"Then we might miss Cheltenham altogether - we might go for National Spirit at Fontwell in between - and then on to Aintree."
Owner Dai Walters is looking forward to seeing his star performer back in action and despite the ground riding on the soft side in Berkshire, he expects Oscar Whisky to handle the challenge.
"I don't know that the ground would be a problem - he's the kind of horse that can go on any ground really," he said.
"He's been a great servant and I love to see him run. I think he's got a good chance tomorrow but the most important thing, as always, is that he comes back in one piece."
Get Me Out Of Here was beaten just under two lengths by Oscar Whisky at Cheltenham last term but signed off the campaign with victory in a Fairyhouse Grade Two at Easter before returning with a win at Kempton.
Jonjo O'Neill's runner steps back up in trip for this race but jockey Tony McCoy knows more improvement is needed to top Oscar Whisky.
He said: "He won at Kempton on his first run (of the season), but he has to step up to beat Oscar Whisky - he has won the Aintree Hurdle a couple of times and is a dual Grade One winner, so he's going to be very hard to beat.
"We'll see how it goes. The trip shouldn't be a problem to him and he's been a great horse.
"He's been second at three consecutive Cheltenham Festivals, so if ever there was a horse you'd hope will go back and win at the Cheltenham Festival it would be him."
Frank Berry , racing manager for Get Me Out Of Here's owner JP McManus, expects the Ascot race to suit.
"He's in good form. It's a cracking race with Oscar Whisky and a few of them," he said.
"It will be nice to see him out again. He came out of his race at Kempton good and everything should suit him grand on Saturday."
Brampour finished a length and a half adrift of Get Me Out Of Here at Kempton but jockey Harry Derham believes the step up in trip, combined with a 4lb pull in the weights, will help the chances of his mount.
He said: "Life is going to be tough for him this year as he did so well last season and he has to run in these kind of races.
"He is stepping up in trip, which will suit him as he stays well, but the ground might just have gone against him a bit, although it may not be ideal for one or two of the others. He will certainly have a good each-way chance.
"We're getting 4lb off Get Me Out Of Here which is obviously a help but he just had more speed than us after the second-last hurdle last time. He really needs a strongly-run two miles but it was a bit of a false race at Kempton and he didn't get that.
"Oscar Whisky is obviously the class horse in the race. He doesn't get beat very often and was still going well before he fell in the race last year."
Raya Star won the Scottish Champion Hurdle last year and made a dream return for trainer Alan King when he claimed a Listed handicap at this track on his return.
King told his website: "He's progressed with every run over hurdles and this will be his first run outside of handicap company against potentially some very useful opponents."