Yay or Neigh: Whisper
Can Whisper go to the top over fences after returning to form at Cheltenham on Saturday? Our racing team have their say.
Whisper (left) jumps alongside Baron Alco before going on to win the Ryman Novices' Steeple Chase
A winner of seven of his 16 starts over hurdles, Whisper has twice won the Grade One Silver Cross Stayers' Hurdle at Aintree over three miles while he was also good enough to win a Coral Cup from a rating of 153 in 2014.
His first attempt at chasing came on New Year's Day in 2015 and didn't end well with the son of Astarabad turned over by Ceasar Milan at 2/5 while last season he failed to show any sparkle with his three runs resulting in one non-completion and defeats by 31 lengths and 46 lengths.
In the last week, trainer Nicky Henderson had issued some more encouraging bulletins and he was rewarded with an accomplished round of fencing for a novice and a relatively cosy success but can Whisper kick on from here?
Our team have their say.
Whisper gained a first chase win in the Ryman Novices' Chase at Cheltenham on Saturday but do you think the dual Grade One winning hurdler can add to his top-level tally over fences?
Dave Ord: It was good to see him at least start on the journey back at Cheltenham. The race fell to pieces a bit but the further he went the better he jumped. We know he has an engine from his hurdling days but the Seven Barrows team have had a devil of a job keeping the wheels on. That's the key now, a couple more confidence boosters over fences before the acid test. He has the ability to win again at the highest level but it would be hard to be confident he'll add to that tally just now.
Verdict: Neigh. Form of the race questionable and too fragile to have any confidence.
Ben Linfoot: Even though he was getting 5lb from Baron Alco this was a really nice effort from Whisper who didn't go off unbacked considering his stablemate Different Gravey was the odds-on favourite. Perhaps he'd been showing his old spark at home. Still only eight, he reached a very high level over hurdles, being rated 167, and he might not have to hit that number over the bigger obstacles to register a chasing Grade One. His owner Dai Walters won this race with Oscar Whisky back in 2013 and that horse went on to win the Grade One Scilly Isles Novices' Chase at Sandown in the same season. The Cheltenham Festival it ain't, but it is a Grade One and there are opportunities like that for classy horses like Whisper in the run up to March. Away from the heat of the Festival, I can envisage Whisper winning something like the Scilly Isles. So…Yay.
Verdict: Yay. A really nice effort from a high class hurdler who can be found a suitable opportunity
Ian Ogg: I think Dave's glass is half-empty and he, and Whisper, could use a little Christmas cheer. It's true that last season was a write off but horses can bounce back. Cue Card didn't exactly shine in 2014-15 (his rating dropped from 172-160) and look where he is now. I'm not suggesting Whisper is in the same league but he is a smart performer with a fine record at the spring festivals and Nicky Henderson has proved time and again how good he is at either bringing them back or preparing a fragile horse to peak on the day. I also think Baron Alco has been rather underestimated and Whisper got the better of him a shade cosily; I can see no reason why he shouldn't go on to win a Grade One over fences.
Verdict: Yay. An impressive performance from a classy gelding who has the ability to mix it at the top level.
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