Centrepiece of the Ascot card at 2.25 is the JLT Long Walk Hurdle over the stiff 3 miles and you can be sure that Harry Carpenter will be watching on from his boxing ring in the sky as the short priced favourite Unowhatimeanharry attempts to continue its relentless climb to the top of the staying tree.
(“What’s this geezer talkin’ abart?” “Dunno, mate – before my time”)
The eponymous Mr Fry’s 9-y-o carried all before it in its novice season, culminating in victory in the Albert Bartlett at the Festival and any feeling that that was a sub-standard event was vitiated by the horse’s explosive return to action in the Grade 2 Bet365 Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury at the end of last month, winning its sixth successive race by an easy 6 lengths.
No surprise, therefore, that Unowhatimeanharry is as short as 5-4 to make it seven in a row and negatives are hard to find.
Second favourite at 6-1 is the rare French raider Alex De Larredya which won a Grade 1 at Auteuil last month, beating old rival Ptit Zig by 9 lengths, which reversed a verdict by the Nicholls’ trained bay in June, also at Auteuil.
Taking the view that Ptit Zig has come up just short of the highest class during its racing career, frankly this form just does not look good enough and, with stamina doubts surrounding 3rd favourite Li’l Rockerfeller, this race looks at the mercy of the favourite – or maybe not.
The horse that Unow etc beat at Newbury was another of last season’s stars, Ballyoptic which went off the 5-2 favourite and, although, staying on dourly at the finish, was no match for the winner’s speed on the run in. I have garnered the distinct impression that Ballyoptic has been slower than anticipated to come to hand this season and needed its first two runs quite badly and although I have no inside knowledge to report, we may see a different horse come 2.25.
Additionally, Ascot is a very different course from Newbury and the grinding style of NT-D’s charge can be given full rein around Her Maj’s playground.
With 12-1 the odds of reward at Paddy Power an each way play on Ballyoptic has to be the value alternative, with Dickie taking over from the unfortunate Ryan Hatch.
Throw in the obligatory forecast with the fav, and there you have it.