Unowhatimeanharry ready to roll
View from connections ahead of Saturday's galliardhomes.com Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham, featuring Unowhatimeanharry.
Unowhatimeanharry has yet to taste defeat at Cheltenham
Harry Fry feels Unowhatimeanharry can maintain his unbeaten record at Cheltenham and extend his winning run to eight in the galliardhomes.com Cleeve Hurdle on Saturday.
The nine-year-old has his first start at Prestbury Park since landing last year's Albert Bartlett at the Festival, as he attempts to add the Grade Two prize to victories in this season's Long Distance Hurdle and Long Walk Hurdle.
Fry said: "He's in really good order. He's working well and came out of Ascot in good form.
"He's probably giving weight away to most of the field, but he's got a great record at Cheltenham, he won three times there last season.
"In your wildest of dreams you could never have hoped he'd reach this level. I
"t's an extraordinary rise through the ranks. Even over the summer we were hoping to progress into a Stayers' Hurdle contender.
"To come out at Newbury and put up that performance and then to win the Grade One at Ascot is fairytale stuff."
Although Ballyoptic proved no match for Unowhatimeanharry at Newbury, the pair looked set to finish much closer at Ascot until the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained gelding fell at the last.
With the seven-year-old back on track after that tumble, the Naunton handler anticipates another close battle.
He said: "He's in really good form and I'm really excited about his prospects. He still had every chance last time, so we're having another go.
"There was all to play for last time. He (Richard Johnson) hadn't moved on him. He was upsides in front when he came down."
Cole Harden, one of two runners in the near three-mile event for trainer Warren Greatrex, bids for a first success since landing the 2015 World Hurdle, on what will be his second start back over smaller obstacles, having finished third in the Relkeel earlier this month.
Greatrex said: "He is in great form and I'm very happy with him. We've decided to stick to the hurdles route. Gavin Sheehan rides him.
"He is not going to get any better, but he knows the track like the back of his hand.
"It will be a good test for the younger horses coming through, as it will be the first time some will have had a pace like this to go at.
"His homework does not suggest any signs of deterioration. He is enthusiastic and I couldn't have him any better. If he ran well the plan would to be to go back for the Stayers' Hurdle.
"Ground is key for him and he wouldn't want a lot of rain. He will always run his race, though."
While any rain would impact the chances of Cole Harden, it is a case of the softer the ground the better for his stablemate Shantou Bob, who built on a solid comeback run at Newbury in November with victory at Chepstow last month.
Greatrex added: "Shantou Bob is in great form. It is the best I've ever had him.
"After his first run back I knew he was back on track. He has improved since Chepstow and was my best novice a couple of seasons ago.
"He has had his issues, but the time off may have done him good as now he is older he is stronger.
"I've put cheekpieces on just to help him, as he can be lazy mid-race. If he is able to keep up with them, there would not be anything finishing stronger as he stays very well."
Knockara Beau caused a shock when lowering the colours of the mighty Big Buck's in the 2014 renewal and while the 14-year-old may now be past his best, trainer George Charlton is convinced plenty of spark still remains.
He said: "I would love it if it rained very hard and we would have to rethink if the going was on the faster side of good.
"The horse is absolutely fantastic and in great form. He isn't actually 14 yet, but you wouldn't think he is going to be 14 on May 23. He is very good and the stable has in general been in better form lately.
"Saturday's race looks very good and we will never beat the horse of Harry Fry's but we are not greedy and hopefully he can make the first six.
"It was a nice run at Carlisle last month, when he was giving the winner 13lb and the second 14lb.
"His Carlisle run qualified him for the Pertemps Final at the Festival. I wouldn't rule anything out, but we will take it one race at a time with him."
Connections of 2013 winner Reve De Sivola are keeping their fingers crossed that enough rain arrives to allow the Nick Williams-trained 12 year-old to take his chance.
Owner Paul Duffy said: "He's well. He's ground dependent, but we'd like to give him a run.
"Obviously there are younger horses coming along now and he's not quite them horse he was but he's still training well and Nick is pleased with him."
The Romford Pele is likely to start at big odds, but trainer Rebecca Curtis is expecting a better performance than his latest effort at Newbury in November.
She said: "He's going really well at home. He wasn't quite right at Newbury the last day. He'd been well before then and hopefully he'll run well."