Oscar Whisky got the better of Wonderful Charm in the Ryman Stationery Cheltenham Business Club Novices' Chase at Cheltenham.
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Nicky Henderson's six-year-old had been undone by a stop-start gallop on his first foray over fences but there was to be no danger of that happening on Friday as Barry Geraghty elected to kick on at the rise of the tapes and force the issue.
All was going well for the partnership with less apparence of his tendency to jump right but having pecked slightly at the third last, he saw the Nicholls inmate looming large in behind as Daryl Jacob elected to take closer order.
Jacob elected to bring his mount to the right of the long time leader and the pair set down to fight out the finish but the concession of 8lb was to prove too much as Oscar Whisky managed to find enough in the locker when the questions were asked.
A delighted Geraghty explained: ""He won well. I think there is a good bit of improvement in him. He jumped well - he jumped a little bit to the right - there is some slight little niggle. He never had a tendency to go right over hurdles but for some reason he was leading with his right today and jumped a little bit to the right. I would say there is just something that needs tweaking.
"He was very good at the last and down the back straight. He has a lot of scope and is very clever and was tough as nails in the finish. He probably only does as much as he has to.
"I was never anxious - down the hill and into the turn in, I had a peek at Daryl and knew he would have to be very, very speedy to get by me. So I was happy enough to sprint over the last two.
"He will sharpen up for the run. He is a much better chaser than I thought he would be - I was not certain how much scope he would have, but he has a lot. I was pleasantly surprised how he jumped last time and this time. I am very pleased with him and would like to think he can strip a lot fitter in March."
Nicky Henderson added: "He loves it around here and he's been enough times. At eight it's quite late to be changing rules but I was quite impressed with him today. It was blatantly obvious we would have to make the running and he doesn't mind doing it.
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"He was very game when the other horse came to him. He needs experience, this is his trip and two and a half especially around here is what he loves. We'd have to think he'll come here in March, there's the Dipper on New Year's Day and he probably needs a couple more runs. You'd hope there is plenty of improvement to come and there's a long way to go between now and March."
Wonderful Charm's jockey Daryl Jacob said: "It's asking a lot to give weight to a horse like Oscar Whisky but he has lost nothing in defeat."
Nicholls added: "It was a great run and he's improving rapidly. I'll put him away until March now. There's no point running him on winter ground as he needs it good and I'll give him a break until the spring festivals."
Sky Bet trimmed Oscar Whisky to 8/1 from 10s and left Wonderful Charm unchanged at 8/1 for the Jewson at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
Spokesman Michael Shinners said: "Oscar Whisky did what he needed to today with a better round of jumping under front-running tactics, but Wonderful Charm came out the best horse at the weights and lost nothing in defeat."