Fry geld­ing may be a World beater

Unowha­timean­harry wins Long Walk Hur­dle in style Brain Power and Top Notch vic­to­ri­ous for Hen­der­son

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - CHAMPIONS CUP - RAC­ING COR­RE­SPON­DENT

If we are near­ing a de­ci­sion on whether Thistle­crack runs in the King Ge­orge or takes up the novice al­ter­na­tive at Kemp­ton on Boxing Day, we are also some­what nearer to find­ing the suc­ces­sor to his World Hur­dle ti­tle af­ter Unowha­timean­harry stretched his un­beaten run over hur­dles to seven with a smooth vic­tory in the JLT Long Walk Hur­dle at As­cot yes­ter­day.

The man with the hard­est job at the Royal race­course yes­ter­day, where most of the track was en­veloped in a thick and con­stantly shift­ing fog, was the com­men­ta­tor. He cer­tainly had to work harder than Barry Ger­aghty, who only started to get prop­erly se­ri­ous with the Harry Fry-trained eight-yearold be­tween the last two.

Unowha­timean­harry, how­ever, re­sponded well and had the mea­sure of Bal­ly­op­tic, the long-time leader, when Richard John­son’s mount fell at the last. West Ap­proach, Thistle­crack’s brother, who was also quite close up, came out in sym­pa­thy and un­shipped his jockey.

The win­ning geld­ing, bought by JP McManus af­ter claim­ing the Al­bert Bartlett, stayed on to beat Lil Rock­er­feller 4½ lengths, with a yawn­ing gap back to Un Temps Pour Tout.

Fry still can­not be­lieve his luck. “That’s seven wins from seven starts for us, it’s in­cred­i­ble,” he said. “That was a harder race for him. Barry said he had to fight for him from four out but he keeps do­ing what he needs to. Hope­fully, if he comes out of this fine, he’ll go for the Cleeve Hur­dle at Cheltenham at the end of Jan­uary and then it will be all sys­tems go for the World Hur­dle.”

Oth­er­wise the day be­longed to Nicky Hen­der­son, with the 12-1 shot Brain Power win­ning the valu­able and nor­mally com­pet­i­tive Wes­sex Youth Trust Hand­i­cap Hur­dle more in the style of an odds-on shot un­der the coolest of rides from Grand Na­tional-win­ning jockey David Mullins and Top Notch tak­ing the G L Events Owen Brown Grad­u­a­tion Chase.

By the time Brain Power won the last, a com­bi­na­tion of dusk and fog made view­ing very dif­fi­cult but the only thing you could see with clar­ity through­out was the dou­ble hand­ful that Mullins had. He cruised into sec­ond on the home bend and was still four lengths down on Fer­gall at the sec­ond last. But he knew what he had un­der­neath him, took it up be­tween the last two and ran out a com­fort­able five -length win­ner over his sta­ble­mate Con­sul De Thaix. The way the win­ner is go­ing sug­gests he might be some­thing rather bet­ter than a hand­i­cap­per.

“Both horses are young and pro­gres­sive,” said Hen­der­son. “Brain Power has now won two good prizes and Con­sul De Thaix can still go down the novice route. The worry with them both was whether they had the nec­es­sary ex­pe­ri­ence for a race like this.”

Cham­pion Hur­dle fifth Top Notch, noted Hen­der­son, may be small and not the stamp of a chaser, but the con­fi­dence he has gained win­ning round War­wick and Plump­ton has worked won­ders for him. “He’s hav­ing a ball,” said the trainer. “He’s still lit­tle but he’s grow­ing in stature with ev­ery win be­cause he’s not be­ing beaten up in Cham­pion Hur­dles and Fight­ing Fifths.”

Hen­der­son al­ready has one ace twom­ile novice chaser, Al­tior, up his sleeve and Bu­veur D’Air, third be­hind Al­tior in the Supreme, looks an­other af­ter a promis­ing chas­ing de­but at Hay­dock, where he beat Cloudy Dream 3½ lengths in the 32Red Novice Chase.

Richard John­son must have wished it had been aban­doned be­cause of the fog. He hit the deck three times and the third of them, Go Con­quer, which fell at the first in Lavazza Sil­ver Cup, gave him a good kick­ing. He was stood down for the last race feel­ing “very sore”.

Cheltenham-bound: Unowha­timean­harry is driven out to win the JLT Long Walk Hur­dle af­ter long-time leader Bal­ly­op­tic (left) fell at the last at As­cot yes­ter­day

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