Unowhatimeanharry looks a ready-made replacement for Thistlecrack and should justify favouritism in the JLT Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot tomorrow.
In recent years the staying hurdling division has been blessed with some real superstars, with Baracouda, Inglis Drever, Big Buck’s and Thistlecrack all dominating the division.
With Thistlecrack sent chasing there was a gap at the top of the pecking order and it looked a wide-open scene this season.
It is normally accepted the winner of the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham will step into the mix, but before Harry Fry’s charge turned up at Newbury for his first run the form looked average at best.
However, he was in a different league to his rivals, suggesting his rapid improvement from last season had not stopped, and it is hard to see any of those behind him there turning around the form.
Reve De Sivola was fifth and it is true he is far more at home at Ascot, and only Thistlecrack prevented him from winning this race four years on the bounce, but he would prefer much softer ground.
The same can also be said of the French raider Alex De Larredya.
Tony Martin’s Golden Spear sneaked in as the last horse for the Wessex Youth Trust Handicap Hurdle, or the Ladbroke to most of us, and can make the most of the opportunity. While he progressed on the Flat through the summer to a mark of 87, beating the rock-solid yardstick Nakeeta in the November Handicap at Leopardstown, his hurdles mark is still only 124 as he has not been jumping since winning a decent pot at Listowel in September 2015.
With good form in big fields on the level and with the excellent Donagh Meyler taking another 3lb off his back, he will feel like he is running free.
It is widely accepted he could be absolutely thrown in, but with last year’s dead-heaters Jolly’s Cracked It and Sternrubin back again, along with the likes of Meet The Legend and Who Dares Wins, his hurdling will have to be up to scratch.
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