Mister Whitaker posted a convincing win in Carlisle’s Colin Parker Memorial Intermediate Chase to underline his credentials for this month’s BetVictor Gold Cup.
Mick Channon’s Cheltenham Festival winner was already prominent in the betting for the showpiece handicap back at Prestbury Park on November 17.
His two-and-a-quarter-length win over Happy Diva in Sunday’s two-and-a-half-mile Listed chase, often used as a stepping stone to the traditional first big handicap of the new jumps season, is therefore of significant note.
Mister Whitaker, last seen winning the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase at Cheltenham in March, was one of four in line coming to the final fence on his return to action.
Rene’s Girl, another like Happy Diva among the initial entries in the BetVictor, made a costly error there – leaving front-running favourite Cyrname as the other still in contention.
It was Mister Whitaker who proved strongest in the finish, however, to win at 3-1 under Adrian Heskin.
Channon told Press Association Sport: “Obviously we’re very pleased.
“We knew he was a good horse after Cheltenham, but it’s great that he’s come back and shown it again.
“What this horse does have is a turn of foot. He’s not the biggest – but if you have that turn of foot it’s a big asset.”
Mister Whitaker was cut to as short as 7-1 favourite for the BetVictor, but Channon is not committing him to that race just yet.
He added: “The horse won’t be home until tomorrow (Monday). So we’ll see how he is, and I’ll have a chat with Tim (Radford, owner) and Hen (Knight) and see which way we go.
“That (BetVictor Gold Cup) is the obvious race, but it is only 13 days away – so we’ll see.”