Timeform bring you their runner-by-runner guide to the Grade 1 Stayers' Hurdle on Thursday...
"UNOWHATIMEANHARRY has beaten the majority of this field 3 times already this season and Harry Fry's most likeable stayer is hard to oppose..."
Thursday 16th March, 15:30
1. AGRAPART (Nick Williams/Lizzie Kelly)
Wide-margin winner of the Betfair Hurdle last season and returned to winning ways back on British soil when landing the Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham (by a head from L'ami Serge) in January. Place claims if building on that, but did plenty wrong at Haydock (made jumping errors and raced freely) last time and something to prove now up in trip again.
2. BALLYOPTIC (Nigel Twiston-Davies/Sam Twiston-Davies)
Improved for his first start at this trip when winning Sefton Novices' Hurdle at Aintree (by a neck from Bellshill) last season and took his unbeaten record over hurdles to four on first start this term in Grade 3 handicap at Chepstow. Beaten by Unowhatimeanharry on his last three starts, but could be the one to chase him home again here.
3. CLONDAW WARRIOR (Willie Mullins/Katie Walsh)
Versatile performer who followed his win in the Galway Hurdle with victory in a 3m minor event at Clonmel. Remarkably still getting better in this sphere, and improved again to finish second to Vroum Vroum Mag in Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown in December. Below that form when third to Shaneshill in Galmoy Hurdle last time, though.
4. COLE HARDEN (Warren Greatrex/Gavin Sheehan)
Without a win since landing this race in 2015, including when fourth in a more competitive renewal last season. Chasing career was quickly shelved this season, and signs have been more positive over hurdles the last twice, including when a length and three quarters behind Unowhatimeanharry in Cleeve Hurdle last time. Winner was giving him 8 lb that day, however.
5. DEDIGOUT (Gordon Elliott/Bryan Cooper)
High-class hurdler in his prime, but hasn't been the most straightforward to train and well below his best form in four starts this season. Finished well-beaten when fifth in Galmoy last time and would prefer more ease in the ground. Difficult to fancy.
6. JEZKI (Jessica Harrington/Mark Walsh)
2014 Champion Hurdler and unbeaten in all three of his starts at beyond 2m, including when beating Hurricane Fly in Grade 1 over 3m at Punchestown in 2015. Returned from nearly two years off with a pleasing win in a minor event at Navan in January, but turned over at short odds in Red Mills Trial at Gowran last time and will need much more here.
7. LIL ROCKERFELLER (Neil King/Trevor Whelan)
Likeable sort who has put up some high-class efforts chasing home Yanworth (Coral Hurdle) and Unowhatimeanharry (Long Walk Hurdle) this season. Seemed to find run in the Relkeel Hurdle coming too soon last time better can be expected here, though still looks booked for a place at best.
8. NICHOLS CANYON (Willie Mullins/Ruby Walsh)
Landed second Morgiana Hurdle on return this season but met with defeat on both occasions since, comprehensively beaten by Petit Mouchoir in Ryanair Hurdle in December and booked for third behind that rival again when falling in Irish Champion Hurdle last time. The choice of Ruby Walsh, but stamina to prove over this trip.
9. SHANESHILL (Willie Mullins/Paul Townend)
Has run well in defeat back over timber this season, finishing third behind Apple's Jade and Vroum Vroum Mag in Hatton's Grace in December and in the process of finishing closer to the latter when falling at the last in the Christmas Hurdle. Back to winning ways in Galmoy Hurdle (by three quarters of a length from Snow Falcon) last time and is respected, having finished second at the last three Cheltenham Festivals in the Champion Bumper, Supreme and RSA.
10. SNOW FALCON (Noel Meade/Sean Flanagan)
Respectable fifth in the Neptune in 2015 but missed last year's Festival having won the Boyne Hurdle in good style that February. Improved efforts again this season, winning Grade 2 at Navan and posting good placed efforts in the Christmas Hurdle and the Galmoy (gave 5 lb to the winner Shaneshill) last time. Deserves to take his chance.
11. THE NEW ONE (Non-runner)
12. UNOWHATIMEANHARRY (Harry Fry/Noel Fehily)
Hasn't looked back since joining Harry Fry at the beginning of last season, winning all eight of his starts over hurdles for new yard, including the Albert Bartlett at last season's Cheltenham Festival. Has already accounted for the majority of this field this season during wins in the Long Distance at Newbury, Long Walk at Ascot and Cleeve at Cheltenham. Looks destined for the very top of the staying division and will be hard to beat once again.
13. UN TEMPS POUR TOUT (Non-runner)
14. WEST APPROACH (Colin Tizzard/Tom Scudamore)
Has only won a Newton Abbot novice (last May) from 11 starts over hurdles (eleventh in 2016 Albert Bartlett), but has some useful form to his name, including very smart three and a quarter lengths third of 15 to Unowhatimeanharry in Cleeve Hurdle over C&D last time. No obvious reason why he should reverse that form here, though.
15. YANWORTH (Non-runner)
16. ZARKANDAR (Paul Nicholls/Harry Cobden)
Made the frame in this race in 2014 and 2015 but missed last season altogether. Likely to have beaten Un Temps Pour Tout at Aintree on return this season but for a late unseat but belatedly registered first success since 2014 when winning five-runner Rendlesham Hurdle at Haydock last time (having reportedly had a breathing operation). This a much stiffer task.
Timeform Stayers' Hurdle 1-2-3
Timeform Analyst's Verdict:
UNOWHATIMEANHARRY has beaten the majority of this field 3 times already this season and Harry Fry's most likeable stayer is hard to oppose. Ballyoptic is fairly priced on the pick of his form and could represent some each-way value, whilst Shaneshill has finished second at the last 3 Festivals and is another to consider.
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