Saphir Du Rheu denied Whisper a home win in the Welsh Champion Hurdle at Ffos Las as held on by a fast-diminishing head.
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The result might well have been different had the runner-up, the 6/4 favourite and owned by racecourse chairman Dai Walters, met the final flight on the same stride as the winner.
However, not for the first time in the race, a messy jump saw him lose ground, handing Saphir Du Rheu a clear advantage. Whisper rallied on the run-in but was not quite able to reel the Harry Derham-ridden winner back in.
Saphir Du Rheu could now head for next month's Ladbrokes World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, where he would join a field including stablemate Big Buck's, also owned by Andy Stewart, although trainer Paul Nicholls sounded a note of caution.
He said: "I'm not really (desperate) to get him to Cheltenham, he's only five and he's going to be a fantastic chaser in time.
"I just said to Andy on the phone that we must look after him because he could be as good a chaser as Andy has owned in time so we are going to look after him and make a plan.
"He's won three good handicaps now and I think Harry gave him a fantastic ride. He rang me up earlier to say there's going to be no pace and could he make the running, and I said if you think that's right then do it."
Of Whisper, trainer Nicky Henderson said: "It was a good race, and Paul's horse has done well since Kempton. I think they are two decent horses and it's a pity because Dai and all of Ffos Las have done very, very well to race today [after the wet weather].
"They got through it all right and the two good horses came right away."