©Healy Racing Photos
Whisper made a winning seasonal debut as he just held Clan Des Obeaux in an absorbing match for the Weatherbys General Stud Book Online Graduation Chase at Kempton.
Runner-up to his brilliant stablemate Might Bite at both Cheltenham and Aintree in the spring, Nicky Henderson's nine-year-old had to work hard to see off his sole opponent.
There was little between them for most of the two-and-a-half-mile journey, until the Paul Nicholls-trained Clan Des Obeaux tried to steal a march heading into the straight. However, Davy Russell was not worried on Whisper and the 4-6 shot jumped the last better to seal victory.
Whisper had got the better of Clan Des Obeaux by half a length when the pair were first and second in the Dipper at Cheltenham on New Year's Day and the margin between them was the same again.
Henderson said: "They are two nice horses and have run to the pound of last year, and you can't say that was dead boring.
"Two and a half miles is not his trip and I'm sure it wasn't Paul's horse's trip, either, but that's what the race was.
"They've had a good gallop and quickened up, he's taken a good blow. Davy was great on him, he sat still and let him get his second wind and let battle commence.
"He needed that and it will straighten him up for wherever he goes next, which is Newbury for the Ladbrokes Trophy.
"He's still good at two and a half, but he proved at Cheltenham that he stays a good three miles on a good gallop."
Nicholls said of Clan Des Obeaux: "He ran well, he landed on the last and was only beaten half a length. I'm thrilled with him, he's run really well. Last year his jumping completely went to pot after Christmas, but we did his wind and he's much better. He will improve.
"He is in on Saturday (BetVictor Gold Cup at Cheltenham), but he won't run and will probably go for the December Gold Cup."