Faster ground can help Unowhatimeanharry reverse Cheltenham form
NICHOLS Canyon (Ruby Walsh) and Lil Rockerfeller (Richard Johnson), separated by just three-quarters of a length at Cheltenham, renew rivalry in the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle at Punchestown this evening.
Nichols Canyon was racing over three miles for the first time in the Stayers' Hurdle last month but stayed on powerfully up the hill to gain an eighth Grade One success.
Willie Mullins also runs Shaneshill (Danny Mullins) in the same Graham and Andrea Wylie ownership, as well as Clondaw Warrior (Paul Townend) and Footpad (Daryl Jacob).
Lil Rockerfeller makes the journey over from Neil King's Wiltshire yard, aiming to go one better now. Unowhatimeanharry, third in that Cheltenham race, represents Harry Fry. A red-hot favourite there, he suffered his first defeat since joining Fry. Might be worth another crack against Nichols Canyon on this faster surface.
Gordon Elliott has a strong team of four, headed by Sutton Place (Mark Walsh), who has tasted defeat only once in six starts. De Plotting Shed (Russell), Jury Duty (Jack Kennedy) and Lieutenant Colonel (Bryan Cooper) make up the rest of Elliott's powerful squad.
Last year's 10/1 winner One Track Mind is back for Warren Greatrex, while Noel Meade's Snow Falcon makes up the 12-runner field in what is one of the highlights of the week and appears to be a much stronger race than 12 months ago.
Mullins also holds the aces in the Ryanair Novice Chase, with Jody McGarvey maintaining his partnership with the front-running Great Field about which the best price yesterday was 11/10.
Townshend (Ruby) and Listen Dear (Townend) also run for Mullins, while Elliott fields A Toi Phil (Kennedy) and Ball d'Arc (Cooper). Baily Cloud, Ballyoisin, Powersbomb and Ordinary World (7/1) are the other four runners.
Not a race, I'd imagine, that the bookmakers are relishing. At the prices I'll be a layer of Great Field in his attempt to make it four from four over fences. He has a tendency to miss the odd fence and around here he won't be allowed to get away with such liberties. Something small each-way on Ball d'Arc might be a safer, more profitable wager.
Don't Touch It was no match for Great Field at Leopardstown, and again had to settle for the runner-up spot subsequently, but he gets an opportunity for revenge on his latest conqueror Hurricane Ben in the two-mile handicap chase.
Hurricane Ben carries top weight, having taken a 9lb rise for his Fairyhouse win. Hard enough to visualise the Harrington horse turning it around unless the application of first-time cheekpieces works the oracle.
Tully East, Alan Fleming's Cheltenham Festival hero, is also in the line-up, 6lb higher now. Denis O'Regan rides again and that pair probably pose the biggest threat to an in-form Hurricane Ben.
Cantlow had to settle for third when favourite for the cross-country race at Cheltenham and now seeks to go one better than he did 12 months ago in the four-mile-one-furlong cross country chase For The La Touche Cup.
This race is generally viewed as a benefit race for Enda Bolger and with 13 successes over the last 20 years, the bookmakers afford him considerable respect.
Beaten 3 lengths by better fancied stablemate Quantitativeeasing in the race last year, he merits maximum respect. Racecourse veterans such as First Lieutenant and Ruben Cotter – a 139 performer when with Paul Nicholls – could run well but Treo Eile second earlier this week is probably outclassed here .
Kate Appleby Shoes and Younevercall are both on three-timers in the three-mile handicap hurdle where brighter chances might be held by such as Okotoks, Screaming Rose and Billy's Hope.
Barra, placed at Cheltenham and in a Fairyhouse Grade One, is the stronger of Elliott's pair pitted against three Mullins runners in the mares' novice hurdle. Ruby rides Asthuria but Good Thyne Tara might be the biggest threat to Barra and Bryan Cooper in a contest which attracts a Jim Bolger jumping debutante Ringside Humour, a solid 95-rated Flat performer.
3.40 Soir De Chantenay
4.15 Hurricane Ben (Dbl)
5.30 Unowhatimeanharry (Nap)
6.05 Billy's Hope
6.40 Ball D'Arc
7.45 Next Destination
3.40 Sweet Company
4.15 Tully East
4.50 Ruben Cotter
5.30 Nichols Canyon
6.40 Ordinary World
7.15 Good Thyne Tara
7.45 Catwalk King