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Barry Geraghty deserts Oscar Whisky for Grandouet in Aintree Hurdle

Updated: Tuesday, 02 Apr 2013 12:32 | Comments

Barry Geraghty has ridden Oscar Whisky in all 19 of his lifetime starts
Barry Geraghty has ridden Oscar Whisky in all 19 of his lifetime starts

Barry Geraghty has passed over the hat-trick seeking Oscar Whisky to partner Grandouet in Thursday's John Smith's Aintree Hurdle.

Nicky Henderson’s stable jockey was on board Oscar Whisky for his two previous successes in the race, but has jumped ship following the eight-year-old’s lifeless display at Cheltenham in the World Hurdle.

Tony McCoy will ride Oscar Whisky for the first time as he reverts back to his optimum trip of two and a half miles.

Thousand Stars, trained by Willie Mullins, has chased home Oscar Whisky in the last two renewals and missed Cheltenham in preference for this contest.

The New One, such an impressive winner of the Neptune Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham for the Nigel Twiston-Davies team, will represent the novice division.

Countrywide Flame, who ran so well to be third in the Champion Hurdle for John Quinn, will aim to give the stable another big winner after claiming the Lincoln on Saturday with Levitate.

Paul Nicholls will be represented by Zarkandar, who will be ridden by Ruby Walsh and not Daryl Jacob, while Raya Star represents Alan King.

Jacob partners Prospect Wells while Saphir River completes the field for Lucinda Russell as the race is run in its new slot on the first day of the meeting.

Zarkandar will wear blinkers for the first time over hurdles after pleasing in a workout in headgear at Nicholls' Ditcheat base this morning.

Speaking in his Betfair blog, Nicholls said: "I have declared Zarkandar in blinkers for the Aintree Hurdle on Thursday.

"As I mentioned in assessing his chance in the Champion Hurdle in these columns last month, we discussed that option at the start of the season.

"But after his three wins this season we saw no need to revisit the idea for the Festival.

"However, his run in the Champion reignited the idea.

"So we worked him in blinkers this morning and he was much sharper than normal. And it is worth remembering that he wore blinkers in his three starts on the Flat in France.

"They really woke him up. So let's hope it has the same effect on the course as they had on the likes of Michel Le Bon at Newbury earlier in the season and Cedre Bleu on Saturday (and Landscape may well have won in first time blinkers too had he not come down at the last).

"But it's obviously a very hot race, so let's see how he gets on."

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