Unowhatimeanharry gains revenge on Nichols Canyon at Punchestown
HARRYFry was singing the praises of Noel Fehily after Unowhatimeanharry turned the tables on his Cheltenham conqueror Nichols Canyon in a pulsating Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle at Punchestown yesterday.
Sent off favourite for the equivalent race at the Cheltenham Festival, the nine-year-old lost his long unbeaten record since joining Fry when only third behind Nichols Canyon.
Nichols Canyon was favourite to confirm the form and provide Willie Mullins with some much-needed prize-money in his attempt to chase down Gordon Elliott, and at the top of the home straight Ruby Walsh appeared to have everything covered.
Fehily had kicked on some way out on Unowhatimeanharry (4/1) and stole a few lengths, but Walsh still looked confident on jumping the last a length down.
Lil Rockerfeller adopted his usual front-running tactics under new jockey Richard Johnson, but he was a spent force with two furlongs to run this time after his heroic effort saw him finish second at Cheltenham.
When Fehily kicked clear, Daryl Jacob on Footpad and Walsh were the two main dangers but Footpad appeared to fail to see out the trip.
After a thrilling battle after the last a head separated the big two at the line with a further 18 lengths back to Footpad.
“They are two brilliant horses and neither really deserved to lose,” said Fry. “Today was our day and Noel was brilliant on him. The horse is tough as nails and really dug deep all the way from the back of the last.
“My voice is feeling a bit worse for wear. It's special, these days, a Grade One, especially following the disappointment of Cheltenham.
“He didn't run badly at Cheltenham but obviously we were very hopeful of his chances. To come back and get his head in front is brilliant.
“It was two absolutely top-class jockeys at their very best and two brilliant horses as well. Another fantastic finish this week.”
On future plans he said: “He's a nine-year-old. We'll speak to Mr (JP) McManus and Frank Berry and decide what we want to do, but I wouldn't have thought at nine he'll go chasing. Hopefully we'll get another chance at the Stayers' Hurdle.
“Punchestown has been very lucky for us and to come and get a big winner at a big festival is great.”