Reve De Sivola (15/8f) edged out Oscar Whisky to land the Rewards4Racing Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham.
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The betting market found it hard to separate the pair and there was only a neck between them at the line in the three mile Grade Two contest with six lengths back to Kentford Grey Lady in third.
Knockara Beau set out to make this a searching gallop and Barry Geraghty had Oscar Whisky buried back in the pack as Nicky Henderson's smart hurdler attempted to prove his stamina for this trip.
Geraghty waited and waited as Reve De Sivola joined issue with Knockara Beau with Cross Kennon back in third before making his ground on the inside of the track.
He jumped the last marginally down but was soon on terms and the pair went toe-to-toe up the demanding climb to the finish with Reve De Sivola only asserting in the final strides under Richard Johnson.
Johnson said: "He's got a very big heart. To be fair the owner said he wanted better ground. After Ascot I wasn't sure, but today he probably didn't enjoy it as much. He still toughed it out really well and it was a good performance.
"I had a little look turning in and I knew Barry (Geraghty on Oscar Whisky) was there. When he came to me this fella put his head down and he wants to win."
Nick Williams has nursed the winner back to his best form this season after the promising novice hurdler lost his way over fences and the eight year old has benefited from the wet winter adding this race to his win in the Grade One Long Walk Hurdle on his preceding start.
Winning owner Paul Duffy, however, feels that he'll be just as happy on quicker ground saying: "Let's hope we keep him nice and fit and nice and safe until March. The ground will be better there - and that will suit him."
Williams said: "His win at Ascot was the best three-mile performance without Big Buck's so I was quite confident coming here.
"The World Hurdle has to be our next step, as we need three miles and he doesn't have to have this sort of ground, although he wouldn't want it very quick."
Henderson said of Oscar Whisky, who was having just his second try at the three-mile trip: "No-one can say he didn't stay, he might want better ground and you could say he might not possibly now have to be ridden to get the trip.
"We have always had Aintree (two-and-a-half-mile Aintree Hurdle, of which he is a dual winner) as one of his races, but those were the best three-milers apart from Big Buck's and you might say that you have got to try three miles back here again (in March).
"If it came up soft there's still the Champion, and it's something that Dai (Walters, owner) and I have got to discuss."
Sky Bet make him a 4/1 chance for the World Hurdle with Reve De Sivola half a point bigger at 9/2.