Unowhatimeanharry, a prolific winner two seasons ago but apparently on the downturn this year, rediscovered his best form to take the Grade One Champion Stayers Hurdle at Punchestown on Thursday and register a first Grade One success at the Festival meeting for a British yard.
Harry Fry’s 11-year-old offered little hint of an imminent return to Grade One-winning form when finishing 12th of 15 in a similar event at Aintree’s Festival meeting last month. He was sent off at 16-1 as a result in a market dominated by horses from the Willie Mullins stable but it was another British-trained runner, Colin Tizzard’s Vision Des Flos, who looked the biggest danger to Unowhatimeanharry at the final flight.
A bad mistake there brought Vision Des Flos to a standstill, however, and Unowhatimeanharry stayed on strongly to the line to beat Bacardys by three lengths, with Bapaume, the favourite, another head away in third.
Unowhatimeanharry reeled off eight straight wins after joining Fry’s yard in the autumn of 2015, a streak that ended only when he was the beaten odds-on favourite for the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in March 2017. He bounced back from that defeat to win at Punchestown a few weeks later and has now registered four wins in all at the highest level as well as four more in Grade Two events.
“He helped put us on the map, he’s won countless races for us,” Fry said, “so at 11 years of age, to come back and win a Grade One after the way his last few runs had gone, we were here in hope more than expectation …
“There was a chance that if today hadn’t gone well it might have been his last ever run so to come out and win, we’ll enjoy this and cherish it.”
Unowhatimeanharry was running at Punchestown on his way to his summer quarters at Martinstown Stud, the main Irish base for his owner, JP McManus.
“Frank [Berry, McManus’s racing manager] said that he was on his way home and he’d done well here in the past so roll the dice,” Fry said. “Mark [Walsh, his jockey] said that when they came to him in the straight, it helped to push him and he showed his battling qualities today.”
No decision will be made on whether Unowhatimeanharry will race on next season but there is a chance that, like Ruby Walsh on Wednesday, he will retire on the back of a Grade One win.
“Maybe he’s won his last ever race so a big one like this is special,” Fry said. “We’ll enjoy this moment and he’ll tell us [whether to keep him in training].”
Lingfield: 1.35 Narjes 2.05 Summer Flair 2.35 Strong Power 3.05 Charles Molson (nb) 3.35 Oloroso (nap) 4.10 Kachumba 4.45 Mutaraffa
Chepstow: 1.45 Mobham 2.15 Wedding Blue 2.45 Poet’s Magic 3.15 Plumette 3.50 Eye Of The Water 4.25 Major Valentine 5.00 Queen Of Paris
Musselburgh: 1.55 Lara Silvia 2.25 Amazing Grazing 2.55 Coolagh Forest 3.25 Everything For You 4.00 Arletta Star 4.35 Smugglers Creek
5.10 Frame Rate
Cheltenham: 5.05 Gustave Mahler 5.40 Coco Live 6.15 Alfstar 6.50 Hazel Hill 7.20 Theatre Territory 7.50 Vasco Du Mee 8.20 Risk A Fine
Newcastle: 5.50 Shareef Star 6.25 Khuzaam 6.55 Splash Of Verve 7.30 Moss Gill 8.00 Hyperfocus 8.30 Everkyllachy 9.00 Inspired Thought