Whisper returns to flying form
Davy Russell's role riding for Dai Walters yielded a Cheltenham winner when Whisper caught Baron Alco to win the novice chase.
Whisper and Baron Alco battle it out over the final fence at Cheltenham.
A high-class staying hurdler on his day and twice the winner of the Liverpool Hurdle, Nicky Henderson-trained Whisper's career has endured more downs than ups in the last couple of years, but he looked a happy horse from the off in the Ryman Novices' Chase.
Baron Alco took the field along from the start and his combination of attacking tactics and fast jumping had seen off Sizing Tennessee by halfway.
In contrast, the winner's stablemate Different Gravey failed to have a cut at most of his fences and lost ground at many in rear under Noel Fehily.
Turning for home, Whisper and the rallying Sizing Tennessee tried to start eating into Baron Alco's advantage, only to find that Jamie Moore had kept a little more up his sleeve aboard the leader.
However, after holding them off over two out, Whisper's stamina started to kick in and he overhauled Baron Alco with another fluent jump over the last fence, going on to score at 4/1 by two and a half lengths.
"He's a high-class horse over hurdles and once he'd winged one of the fences down the back, I was able to ride him like a chaser," said Russell. "It just took him that fence or two to warm up today but Nicky gave me the freedom to do what I wanted to do and it was great to see him looking like the old Whisper again.
"There are a lot of steps in the ladder still to climb before we get back up to Grade One company, but to be fair to him he has winged all of the last four fences at a track that takes some jumping."
Henderson added: "He was all in pieces the first time at Exeter. For one and a half years he has been absolutely rubbish and you could tell at home and everywhere.
"We took him to pieces at the end of the summer and we could not find anything. He has a bit of confidence and happiness back in his life. When he is good, he is a very good horse. That was great, things are beginning to happen."
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