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Aintree Hurdle Saturday 9th April 2011 

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Oscar Whisky Completes Henderson Hat-Trick

1 Oscar Whisky 6/1
2 Thousand Stars 16/1
3 Salden Licht 25/1
8 ran Distances: nk, 10l, 2½l
TIME 4m 45.30s (fast by 0.70s)

Trainer Nicky Henderson and stable jockey Barry Geraghty made it three wins from as many races after completing a 52.4/1 treble on John Smith’s Grand National day when the 6/1 chance Oscar Whisky took the Grade One John Smith’s Aintree Hurdle, in which his better-fancied stablemate Binocular came only fourth.

Oscar Whisky

Oscar Whisky

After a slow early pace, Geraghty took up the running and held off the fast-finishing Thousand Stars to score by a neck.

“This meeting has been like Cheltenham when he had three days of purgatory before things came right and we also had a tough Thursday and Friday here,” said Henderson. “It was a brave thing for Barry to do to go on, it was not Plan A but they had not gone much gallop.

“Barry saw that and it was clever, intelligent, professional riding from him. He know the horse had stayed two and a half miles well at Cheltenham in January and decided to bring stamina into play.

“If I’d had my way he would have run here on Thursday but (owner) Dai (Walters) was off to Germany for the day so said could we run on Saturday instead.

“Oscar Whisky will go back to what I call Dai’s orchard at his place in Wales now. Barry said the horse had grown up a lot today and mentioned the Champion Hurdle next year.

“We’ve got the summer to think about next season. He did win the Welsh Champion Hurdle over two miles but that was not an earth-shattering race and he does have stamina. Spirit Son also comes into play in the Champion picture as well.

“Binocular was disappointing. A P (McCoy) said he was a bit stuffy but he was travelling well and we know he’s a bit better than that. You’d have expected him to pick up from that pace and you know the days when he’s right and the days when he’s not.”

Geraghty added: “He’s very game. The plan was to track Peddlers Cross in third but I decided to follow Ruby with the pace that they were going. I’d popped off and followed Peddlers in the Champion Hurdle but they didn’t go that quick and started the same today. He came alive for me down the back - he winged a hurdle down there - and got competitive so I was just happy to go with him.

“Like Spirit Son, he has promised loads at home and he has done well on the track - he was fourth in the Supreme Novices’ and third in the Champion Hurdle. I felt that better ground in the Champion Hurdle would have helped and he got it today.

“I knew that they weren’t far off and I thought that I was in trouble with Katie coming and she gave her horse a great ride. I did feel I had a bit left in the locker but she nearly did me and it’s a tough day for her as she misses out in the Grand National. I feel sorry for her because she is a good girl.

“A faster-run Champion Hurdle with an end-to-end gallop would have suited him more as he gets two and a half miles well and - who knows - he could three miles next year but also has the class to step back in trip.”


Starting Price
Beaten Distance
Oscar Whisky
N J Henderson
B J Geraghty
11st 7lbs
6 - 1
Thousand Stars
W P Mullins
Ms K Walsh
11st 7lbs
16 - 1
Salden Licht
A King
R Thornton
11st 7lbs
25 - 1
10 lengths
N J Henderson
A P McCoy
11st 7lbs
7 - 4
2 1/2 lengths
Oscar Dan Dan
T Mullins
P Carberry
11st 7lbs
40 - 1
Ronaldo Des Mottes
D Pipe
T J Murphy
11st 7lbs
50 - 1
2 3/4 lengths
Peddlers Cross
D McCain Jnr
J M Maguire
11st 7lbs
11 - 8
7 lengths
Celestial Halo
P F Nicholls
R Walsh
11st 7lbs
8 - 1
3 lengths



An unexpected outcome to the John Smith's Aintree Hurdle saw 6/1 chance Oscar Whisky beat 16/1 shot Thousand Stars - with market leaders Peddlers Cross and Binocular seventh and fourth respectively. Willie Mullins, who has three fancied runners in the John Smith's Grand National, said of Thousand Stars: "Now we have a dilemma of whether to go for the two-miler or three-miler at Punchestown - he certainly wasn't stopping at the finish today.

Thousand Stars

Thousand Stars

"Next year we aim to run him over fences and we're hopeful he might become an [Irish Independent] Arkle Chase horse. He's got enough speed to go for that sort of target."

Of his trio of runners in the big race (The Midnight Club, Arbor Supreme and Dooneys Gate), Mullins said: "Our horses have been running well at this meeting - we've been hitting the dartboard, but not the bulls-eye, so I would be very happy if we could do that in the big one.

"We've had a trouble-free run with all three, and while I'm not going to nominate one I would just say they are all well-priced for what they've done and they travelled over to Aintree in good order."

Katie Walsh, who partnered Thousand Stars, added: "It's absolutely brilliant! It's a fantastic atmosphere and I love that horse - he gave me a winner at Cheltenham and now has run such a good race today.

"I thought that I might get Oscar Whisky going to the last but, to be honest, the winner pulled more out and stepped away. I know it probably looked like I was going to get there but I kind of half-knew going from the last that I wouldn't get up."

Walsh received a six-day ban after the race for excessive use of the whip.

Donald McCain, trainer of 11/8 favourite Peddlers Cross, who finished seventh, said: "He's fine, but it was one race too many."


Salden Licht produced a career-best performance to finish third in the Grade 1 John Smith’s Aintree Hurdle, prompting trainer Alan King to declare with a smile “I think I can kiss goodbye to handicaps after that.”

The County Hurdle (Cheltenham Festival, March, 18) fifth, who started at 25-1, took the jump in class in his stride and travelled beautifully for Robert (Choc) Thornton, only giving best to Oscar Whisky and Thousand Stars going to the final flight.

King added: “I am thrilled with Salden Licht and the step up to two and a half miles did the trick. He is probably in no-mans land over hurdles, so we might have a look for something on the Flat.

“If not, we will finish him for the season and, depending on what his owner (Dai Griffiths) thinks, we might pop him over fences in the autumn.”

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