Fry hopeful ‘harry can step up
Views from connections ahead of Friday's Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury, including Harry Fry on Unowhatimeanharry.
Unowhatimeanharry: Now runs in the famous green and gold of JP McManus
Trainer Harry Fry is keeping his fingers crossed the prolific Unowhatimeanharry can raise his game this season ahead of his return to action in the bet365 Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury.
The eight-year-old enjoyed a spectacular campaign last season, winning each of his five starts culminating with Cheltenham Festival glory in the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle.
Leading owner JP McManus has since snapped up the much-improved staying hurdler and having missed the West Yorkshire Hurdle at Wetherby and last weekend's Fixed Brush Handicap Hurdle at Haydock on account of unsuitable ground, he is now ready to make his seasonal reappearance.
Fry said: "He had a great season last year and never stopped improving. He's going to have to improve again if he's to hold his own in the three-mile hurdle division this season, but he seems in good form at home and this will tell us exactly where we are with him.
"He's ready to start. We declared him last Saturday, but the ground was very heavy and he'd have had to carry top-weight, so we decided to wait for this. This race will probably tell us a bit more about where we stand."
Unowhatimeanharry faces eight opponents in Friday's Grade Two feature, with the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Ballyoptic heading Sky Bet's market.
He won his first three starts for the Naunton handler last season, including a Grade One victory at Aintree, and impressed on his comeback at Chepstow.
The six-year-old was not completely done with when falling at the final flight in the West Yorkshire Hurdle and jockey Ryan Hatch is hopeful he can return to winning ways.
He said: "He was staying on well at Wetherby. I obviously think he would have won, a few of the other jockeys might have thought differently. He's schooled well since, I'm looking forward to riding him and hopefully he goes to Newbury and runs a big race."
Snow Falcon is an interesting Irish challenger for trainer Noel Meade, turning out just 12 days after winning the Grade Two Lismullen Hurdle
"He's travelled over well and the girl that is with him is very happy with him," said Meade.
"He's been in good form and his weight is good, so hopefully he's had time enough since his last run. If he gets a clear round and everything goes well, we'd be hopeful he'll give them something to think about."
Maximiser looked an exciting prospect for trainer Simon West after winning his first two starts over hurdles in 2014, but then spent almost a year on the sidelines. He made an encouraging comeback and chasing debut when narrowly denied by Silsol at Carlisle, but fell at this meeting 12 months ago and has run just once since, finishing a close second in a Listed hurdle race at Auteuil at the end of March.
West said: "It started going wrong for him at Newbury last year and we tried to get a bit of compensation at Auteuil because the season had not unfolded as we would have liked. The RSA Chase is the main aim but there is not the right race up north in my eyes to go back novice chasing, so Newbury over hurdles looks a good starting point.
"He is unexposed and we still think there is plenty of potential to play with. It is now up to him to prove himself."
Menorah runs over hurdles for the first time since December 2011, having missed last weekend's Betfair Chase at Haydock due to the testing conditions.
The Nick Williams-trained veteran Reve De Sivola, Ubak, Shades Of Midnight and The Romford Pele complete the line-up.
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