The JP McManus-owned Unowhatimeanharry, a general 5-1 second favourite for the World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival behind the Willie Mullins-trained Faugheen ( a standout 9-2 with Betfred ), will attempt to consolidate his position in the stayer’s championship contest by justifying favouritism in this Saturday’s JLT Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot. 

A top price 6-4 with Bet365 for the extended three mile Grade 1 event, the Harry Fry-trained eight-year-old was bought by the leading owner after winning the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at this year’s festival and more than justified the purchase when running out an impressive winner of Newbury’s Grade 2 Bet365 Long Distance Hurdle on his seasonal reappearance last month, beating the 5-2 favourite Ballyoptic by six lengths despite being eased on the run in. 

The son of Harry Lewis is now on a winning run of six since landing a gamble in a conditional jockey’s handicap hurdle at Prestbury Park just over a year ago off a mark of 123, a massive 42lb less than the gelding is now officially rated by the handicapper. The £100,000 trial for the stayer’s crown has attracted a possible field of 13 at Monday’s declaration stage, including many of the best staying hurdlers in Britain along with possible French challenger Alex De Larredya from the stable of Francois Nicolle. 

A top price 15-2 with Netbet the six-year-old has a great record at Auteuil where on his most recent start he comfortably beat a strong field in a Grade 1 race which included likely rival Ptit Zig who finished nine lengths adrift of the winner in third place. Just how that form will translate to this side of the channel is open to debate but it would be dangerous to underestimate a horse with such strong credentials. 

Trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies is likely to take on the market leader once again with Ballyoptic ( 15-2 with William Hill ) but faces a stiff task of turning the tables on the same terms and a bigger danger may prove to be Lil Rockerfeller ( 13-2 Betfred, Betvictor and Betway ) who seems to reserve his best form for the Berkshire track. Reve De Sivola was foiled in his attempt at a four-timer in the race by Thistlecrack 12 months ago but will not have that outstanding stayer to contend with this time while other likely runners include Zarkandar and Hennessy Gold Cup disappointment Un Temps Pour Tout.

By Alan Kelly

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