bet365 Long Distance Hurdle
|Grade 2, Newbury 14:10
£50,000 added, 4yo plus,
3m 52y, Class 1
|Friday 25th November 2016|
1 Unowhatimeanharry 7/2
2 Ballyoptic 5/2F
3 Menorah 7/1
9 ran Distances: 6l, 6l, 1¼l
TIME 5m 56.70s (slow by 11.70s)
Unowhatimeanharry pulls clear for an emphatic success for Harry Fry
Veteran Reve De Sivola helped cut out a surprisingly sedate pace in the early stages of the Grade Two contest, won 12 months ago by subsequent Cheltenham Festival hero Thistlecrack.
Finally, the field began to spread themselves out coming out of the back straight on the final circuit as Richard Johnson and the amazing Menorah kicked for home.
Menorah quickly had most of the field in trouble, although the 7/2 winner could always be spotted going nicely on the inside under Barry Geraghty, this being the horse's first start in the colours of owner JP McManus.
Irish raider Snow Falcon, who had also appeared to be travelling nicely at that stage and just creeping into the contest, was a faller at the third-last flight. Happily, his trainer Noel Meade reported that horse and jockey Sean Flanagan were none the worse for the incident.
That incident suddenly left Unowhatimeanharry as the only danger and he swept past two out, quickly opening up a clear advantage.
Geraghty's mount kept on galloping all the way to the line without having to be asked too substantial a question, scoring eased down by six lengths from 5/2 favourite Ballyoptic, who failed to hurdle with much fluency, but who kept on for a laboured second ahead of Menorah and Ubak.
Ascot's Long Walk Hurdle in a fortnight's time - the same route as taken by Thistlecrack - is likely to be next on the cards for the winner.
Fry said: "He gave us a great day in March and had it all to prove today. It's taken a while to get him out, but it's been worth waiting for.
"We took him out at Haydock last week because of the heavy ground. It wouldn't have mattered the way he's won today, but we just didn't want to get to the guts of him first time out under top-weight.
"There was this race today, but I could never have hoped or expected him to win like that and I'm thrilled to bits.
"He'll go to Ascot next in three weeks and the races pick themselves."
Barry Geraghty was riding Unowhatimeanharry for the first time and was suitably impressed.
"Harry's done a brilliant job. It was a bigger performance than we expected, we thought he had a chance, but he did it really well," said the jockey.
"He jumped well and travelled at every stage of the race. He's got a good attitude and really enjoys his racing. It was a great performance. It will be interesting to see how he fares when he steps up in grade.
"It's the first time I've ridden him and he's a bigger horse than I expected, a little more physical than I thought."
Sky Bet slashed the winner to 6/1 (from 16s) for the World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
Ballyoptic's trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies is relishing a rematch with the winner at Ascot.
He said: "It was a slowly-run race, which probably didn't help us and we're looking forward to the Long Walk, which is over a bit further, which will help us. Hopefully the ground will be softer.
"He's been fine since his fall at Wetherby and hopefully he's still a World Hurdle contender, as off his mark there's nothing else to go for."
Menorah's trainer, Philip Hobbs, said: "I'm delighted with him and he'll probably run at Ascot in a handicap chase in three weeks' time if the ground is all right."
Noel Meade reported Snow Falcon to be none the worse for his unfortunate spill.
"He's perfect. He just came up too soon. He used to be a bit the other way and got in under them (hurdles)," said the trainer.
"He was going well at the time, but it was half a mile out, so you wouldn't know (what would have happened).
"After today the plan was always to go for Christmas, so I'd say the plan will still be the same.
"Hopefully he's OK, he seems OK and trotted away fine."
Bet365 Long Distance Hurdle
£50,000 added, 4yo plus, 3m 52y, Class 1
Going: Soft, Good to Soft in places
|Pos||D||Horse SP||Jockey Weight||Trainer||Age|
|1st||Unowhati-meanharry 7/2||B J Geraghty
|2nd||6||Ballyoptic (IRE) 5/2f||Ryan Hatch
|N A Twiston-Davies||6|
|3rd||6||Menorah (IRE) 7/1||R Johnson
|P J Hobbs||11|
|4th||1¼||Ubak (FR) 9/1||Joshua Moore
|G L Moore||8|
|5th||16||Reve De Sivola (FR) 16/1||D A Jacob
|6th||5||Shades Of Midnight 40/1||Callum Whillans
|D W Whillans||6|
|PU||Maximiser (IRE) 25/1||Aidan Coleman
|S G West||8|
|PU||The Romford Pele (IRE) 11/1||Jonathan Moore
|Miss R Curtis||9|
|F||Snow Falcon (IRE) 9/2||S W Flanagan