Oscar Whisky - Cheltenham 10.12.2011

Oscar Whisky: 5-1 for the World Hurdle and 14-1 for the Champion Hurdle

  PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)  

Whisky could bypass Cheltenham Festival

NICKY HENDERSON has warned that his dual Aintree Hurdle winner Oscar Whisky may bypass this season's Cheltenham Festival, underlining that a third victory at Aintree remains the main objective for the Dai Walters-owned seven-year-old.

Much debate has centred around which Cheltenham race - the 2m½f Champion Hurdle or the World Hurdle over 3m - would be most suited to the 13-time winner but Henderson says he and Walters have considered missing the meeting altogether.

"There's a definite opinion that there might not be a race for him at all," Henderson told The Morning Line on Saturday. "Both Dai and I have discussed it at length. You have to conclude that at two and a half round there [Cheltenham] he's as good as you get.

"I just can't work out the World Hurdle last year. He wouldn't have won at two and a half and finished absolutely drunk. I don't think it was stamina. I 'm not saying that he's going to come back to three as I don't think he will."

Discussing potential targets before Aintree's Grand National meeting, Henderson added: "We have mapped out a plan where the principle objective is to try and win the Aintree Hurdle for a third year.

"The plan was to go to Cheltenham on New Year's Day, then to Ffos Las for the Welsh Champion Hurdle, then we've even said maybe the National Spirit and leave Cheltenham out of it. But if it came up soft at Cheltenham I think you'd be right in saying he'd have to come into the Champion Hurdle picture."

Paddy Power make Oscar Whisky their 5-1 joint-favourite for the World Hurdle and a 14-1 chance for the Champion Hurdle.    

As sporting sights go, few match the sheer excitement of 40 horses thundering towards the first fence at Aintree for the John Smith's Grand National.

A race steeped in history that always provides a story, the Grand National is the ultimate test of endurance and skill for both horse and jockey, as the pairing must navigate 30 treacherous fences, and then still have enough stamina to make a challenge on the run-in.

To manage a clear round in the 4m4f epic is no mean achievement, with the fences notoriously difficult and offering unique challenges.

Over the years, there have been countless memorable moments, Devon Loch's phantom leap in the 1956 contest, Foinavon's shock 100-1 win in 1967 and the brilliance of Red Rum, who took the chase on three occasions in 1973, 74 and 77.

In 1981 Aldaniti and Bob Champion completed a heartwarming tale when winning the race, as Aldaniti had recovered from a career-threatening injury while jockey Champion had battled back from cancer.

In 2011 the race provided another fairytale story as Donald McCain emulated his father and Aintree legend Ginger when winning with Ballabriggs - and that came just a year after champion jockey Tony McCoy finally gained victory in the race at the 15th time of asking.