Yay or Neigh: Unowhatimeanharry
Our racing team ponder whether Unowhatimeanharry is worth backing now for the World Hurdle at his current best-price of 5/2.
Unowhatimeanharry: Yay or Neigh?
When JP McManus was asked whether he'd back Unowhatimeanharry for the Stayers' Hurdle, his reply was "Why not?". So would you back him now for Cheltenham Festival glory on the basis of his remarkable achievements for Harry Fry?
Will Hayler: NEIGH – not my kind of ante-post proposition.
It's hard to know what might still come out of the woodwork for this race at the Festival, especially from Ireland. Despite what the bookmakers seem to think, I'm struggling to see Faugheen turning up – of he does go over three miles I have a hunch that will be at Punchestown – but there are maybe a dozen other possibles from the same stable who could yet end up in the field, not least Nichols Canyon who I'm convinced had a physical issue at the end of last season and could yet prove a very smart staying hurdler. As such, from an ante-post point of view, it's not a race that appeals at all to me – I'm just not that sort of punter. But what I do believe is that Unowhatimeanharry could be even better than he showed on Saturday when back on good ground in the spring and he is going to head to Ascot as a rock-solid high-160s performer with the definite potential to do even better. Will that be good enough?
Andy Wootton: YAY – what is not to like?
Since switching to Harry Fry's yard Unowhatimeanharry has thrived with every task which has been thrown his way meaning it is beginning to get very difficult to argue that he is not worthy of being the rock-solid favourite for the World Hurdle and it's fairly easy to argue that he should even be shorter than his current price of 5/2. He has the profile of a horse that should be loved by the public, having risen through handicaps, to winning the spuds race at the Festival and now continuing that unbeaten winning sequence to seven with two very taking wins so far this season, but I just don't get the impression that the love for him is there and I'm really struggling to think why this is the case. He travels, he jumps well, he moves well through his races, he quickens and he can battle – what more can he do? There are holes to be picked in any number of the next five or six horses quoted underneath him in the antepost market for Cheltenham of which Willie Mullins holds the key – Faugheen most probably won't run, ditto Yorkhill and let's not even talk about the mares – so, he's got to be a Yay for men and it could well be the case that we haven't seen the best of him yet.
Ben Linfoot: NEIGH – plenty could change in this market yet.
Hands up, I wouldn't back any horse at 5/2 for the Cheltenham Festival three months in advance. So my answer was always going to be a firm neigh. There's just not enough juice in that price to take a risk on injury or welfare, no matter how strong his form claims are beginning to look. Seven from seven for Harry Fry now, Unowhatimeanharry's story is a remarkable one and on this season's form he is the standout staying hurdler, of that there is no doubt. Of course, he deserves to be favourite. But plenty of horses that aren't in the World Hurdle frame at the moment could well be come March. Would it be the greatest surprise in the world to see Thistlecrack revert to the smaller obstacles if things don't go as planned at Kempton on Boxing Day? Stranger things happen in racing, seemingly every week. And we also don't really know the true merit of his performance on Saturday because of the Ascot fog. How close would Ballyoptic have got to the winner had he stayed on his feet? You can ask the same question with the novice West Aproach. Ballyoptic looked certain to at least close the gap from his Newbury run, so has Unowhatimeanharry even improved at all from the Long Distance Hurdle? It's difficult to tell. But, either way, at 5/2, it has to be a neigh.
Ian Ogg: NEIGH – he could be the same price or bigger on the day
He's a Cheltenham Festival winner on an unbelievable upward curve and I can see the logic in the bet but he's shortened up from his post-race quotes of 3/1 and is generally half a point shorter than that now. When you consider that Willie Mullins trains six of the next eight in the betting, there's clearly a good deal of uncertainty about who will line up. If at least one of those big guns takes him on and comes into the race off the back of a dominant performance and with the County Closutton maestro enjoying a successful Festival then there's a chance that his price on the day might not be too far away from where it is now and I'd rather take that gamble than back him at his current price.
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