Cheltenham Racing Results: Whisper Enters Festival Picture With Dipper Novices Chase Victory
A new era of terrestrial TV horseracing coverage commenced on New Year’s Day as ITV took over where Channel 4 had left off and early indications suggest that the new look format, although not to everyone’s taste, proved a hit with most viewers with the opening broadcast attracting a peak audience of 831,000. The decision to ditch the environment of a warm studio however meant that Sky Sports big name signing Ed Chamberlain, Sir Anthony McCoy and Luke Harvey had to brave the elements as Cheltenham suffered from one of those miserable, dark, wet and cold days all too familiar during this time of year.
Conditions failed to dampen the quality action on display however with the highlight being the four-runner Grade 2 BetBright Dipper Novices’ Chase. The two and a half mile contest was expected to go the way of the highly promising Paul Nicholls-trained Clan Des Obeaux who had been so impressive in spreadeagling the field on his second start over fences at Newbury but on this occasion the son of Kapgarde failed to justify his odds of 10-11, failing by half a length to withstand the sustained challenge of chief market rival Whisper.
Nicky Henderson’s high-class staying hurdler of a few season’s ago had looked destined to reach the top over the bigger obstacles but like stablemate Josses Hill has taken time to make the transition to the new discipline. The 2014/2015 Liverpool Hurdle winner finished a well beaten second on his chasing debut at Exeter exactly two years ago, resulting in spell back over hurdles but the nine-year-old has looked a different proposition this season, taking both his starts over fences, the first also at Cheltenham earlier in December when beating a decent field in the Ryman Novices’ Chase.
The son of Astarabad has two possible targets at the festival - the two and a half mile JLT Novices’ Chase or the four and a half furlong further RSA Chase. A top price 14-1 with Paddy Power and Betfair Sportsbook for the former Whisper can be backed at a standout 20-1 with Betstars for the longer race. In the unlikely event of the horse reverting back to the smaller obstacles odds of 33-1 can be obtained with several firms about a victory in the Stayers’ Hurdle.