Trainers are finding some exotic sanctuaries from the big freeze, the timing of which is causing increasing disquiet. With a diminishing window to give his Cheltenham Festival candidates a race, Nicky Henderson yesterday took no less a horse than Oscar Whisky to the all-weather at Kempton, and he could yet send Binocular up to Kelso on Wednesday.
Oscar Whisky, denied a run at Ffos Las a week ago, coasted through the gloaming to land odds of 1-16 in a "jumpers' bumper". It barely amounted to a piece of work as he cruised three lengths clear; he will face a rather stiffer challenge against Big Buck's in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle.
"Barry [Geraghty] reckoned that was the first time they have gone a proper gallop all day," Henderson said. "This has been useful, because we can back off him a bit now. It's job done."
He had earlier won a similar race with Tetlami, last seen taking a novice hurdle on the adjacent course on Boxing Day. While he has several other smart youngsters to test, Henderson committed this one to the William Hill Supreme Novices' Hurdle. "He hasn't actually had much experience, so that was perfect," he said. "He's had a race, without really having a race."
Henderson has entered another Supreme contender, Simonsig, alongside the senior hurdler at Seven Barrows, Binocular, in the Victor Chandler Morebattle Hurdle at Kelso. But as his Zaynar was turned over at 1-14 in the same race a couple of years ago, he is still vacillating over that project.
Astonishingly, hardly any southern trainers venture north today for the valuable card rescheduled at Musselburgh. All credit to the few exceptions, who contribute to some really competitive sport. Best bet on the card is perhaps Lightening Rod (3.10) but a good case can also be made for Koup De Kanon (3.45). Not long with Donald McCain, he tanked through the race before fading up the hill at Cheltenham last month and should last longer around this sharper track.
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