Reve De Sivola was all out to hang on from Oscar Whisky in a pulsating finish to the Rewards4Racing Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham.
The eventual winner was always prominent under Richard Johnson, while in contrast Barry Geraghty sat waiting as long as he could to preserve the runner-up's unproven stamina.
The Nick Williams-trained Reve De Sivola edged clear of gallant leader Knockara Beau after two out, but Geraghty looked like he might have timed matters to absolute perfection at the last and it was only after a long battle up the run-in that Reve De Sivola (15-8 favourite) got the verdict by a neck.
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 was there. When he came to me this fella put his head down and he wants to win."
Williams added: "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."
Nicky 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 Dai (Walters, owner) and I have got to discuss."
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