Whisper wins thrilling Dipper
Whisper got the best of a good battle with Clan Des Obeaux to win the Betbright Dipper Novices' Chase at Cheltenham.
In the absence of O O Seven, pulled out by Nicky Henderson on account of the soft ground, the four-runner field were taken along by the well-backed Briery Belle for the first few fences. But she was unable to live with the pace of her rivals and it was Clan Des Obeaux who took control on the final circuit.
He jumped well in the main and took a clear advantage when the following Whisper clouted the fence at the top of the hill. But Davy Russell nursed the 11/4 winner back into contention and turning for home, it was only a marginal advantage that the favourite still held.
Two out, the balance tipped in Whisper's favour as Clan Des Obeaux jumped untidily and landed in a mess, forfeiting momentum and ground.
Whisper took that opportunity to seize the advantage and reached the final fence a length up. The runner-up rallied in determined fashion from that point and the pair fought tooth and nail up the final hill, but Whisper sees out this two-and-a-half-mile trip thoroughly and the nine-year-old fended off his younger rival to score by half a length.
"He jumped the last two very well and stayed on well all the way to the line – the runner-up might just have been a bit unfortunate, but I liked the way my horse stayed on strongly and that was a good run," said Russell.
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"Dai (Walters, owner) rang me two weeks ago and said it was important I came to ride him again to keep the horse moving forwards."
Henderson said: "He's won two Aintree Hurdles and all sorts of races, he's just tough and genuine and is a real friend.
"When these old ones come back it is great. It feels like he has been around a long time, but he is only a novice chaser.
"He'll have to come into the JLT picture, I think, although he does get three miles. He'll go on any ground and it never worried me running him on the ground today.
"He's a brave little fellow and very genuine. The key question now is whether he has a run before the Festival. He doesn't need to have one."
Paul Nicholls said of the vanquished market leader, who is part-owned by Sir Alex Ferguson: "He just made a mistake at the second-last when he didn't want to. The other horse is a real stayer and our horse will probably be better in a faster-run race.
"This horse is only five so will definitely have a break and is more of a horse for the future."
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