Fry's 'Harry' on the road to Cheltenham
Back in the 1980s, a book about the future called Megatrends sold over 14 million copies and its author, John Naisbitt, is quoted as saying that "trends, like horses, are easier to ride in the direction they are going",
I haven't got around to reading Naisbitt's book to see how good he was at predicting the future, but if his quote is any way accurate, Unowhatimeanharry must have a great chance of winning the JLT Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot (2.25), with all the stats and trends suggesting a victory for the jolly this afternoon.
Previous winners include Thistlecrack and Big Buck's, and this is always an interesting pointer as we build up to the World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
The market leader has a lot in his favour with six of the last ten favourites all successful; and it's rare we get a shock, with 12 of the winners this century priced 9/2 or shorter.
As for ratings, horses in or around the 165 mark like Unowhatimeanharry have an exceptional record, and when you also consider the fact that Long Distance Hurdle winners are rarely out of the top two, you can understand why Harry Fry's gelding is expected to go off as short as 5/4 today.
It's been a great success story for connections. In March 2015, he was pulled up in a handicap hurdle when still trained by Helen Nelmes, having made no impact throughout - but in his next race in November of that year, he made his mark of 123 look very low indeed when completely dominating the field to win a handicap at Cheltenham.
That was his first race for Fry and it's been five straight victories since, including the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle at the 2016 Festival and the aforementioned Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury.
Fry has said that the Cleeve Hurdle and the World Hurdle will follow if all goes well today - and although this could be his sternest test to date, one of today's main rivals, Ballyoptic, was six lengths behind in the Long Distance Hurdle.
Reve De Sivola is respected having won this race three times but he's now aged 11 and was fifth in the Long Distance Hurdle, so a double-figure price of 12/1 or thereabouts seems quite fair.
The French raider Alex De Larredya is the biggest threat to the selection. Francois Nicolle's six-year-old has won some good races at Auteuil and he seems to be improving all the time.
Lil Rockerfeller is also in with a shout. He was conceding weight when narrowly beaten by Yanworth in the Grade Two Coral Hurdle here last time out, and trainer Neil King also has the World Hurdle in mind for his five-year-old.
The all-weather at Lingfield might not be as exciting but Bint Dandy catches the eye around 7/2 in the Fillies' Conditions Stakes (1.25), and collecting the money from the bookmaker will feel just as good as any top race, should she win.
Chris Dwyer's mare hasn't tasted success in a long time but she's a fairly useful handicapper when things fall right for her and this looks a good opportunity to get her career back on track following a couple of disappointing runs. Georgia Cox claims 5lb, which should help.
William Haggas' Bargain Buy will probably go off as favourite. She won a handicap here a couple of weeks ago and should have more to come but the bookmakers are taking no chances and she looks a little short around 2/1.
Back at Ascot, I'm quite keen on Triolo D´Alene each-way in the Listed Lavazza Jolie Silver Cup Handicap Chase (3.0), available at 16/1 yesterday evening. Nicky Henderson's nine-year-old has won five races from 18 career starts including a Listed event at Kempton back in January, although he was out of his depth in the Ascot Chase in February.
He finished 14th in the Grand National, and I backed him at a big price last time out when finishing mid-division in the Hennessey Gold Cup Chase at Newbury.
He made a couple of blunders on that occasion but it was his first race since the National and he's been dropped a couple of pounds since, which should leave him in with a chance.
The Nicky Henderson-trained Consul De Thaix has only recently qualified for handicaps and shaped quite well when second to Brain Power off an opening mark of 132 in a Listed handicap hurdle at Sandown a couple of weeks ago.
He's back in action today for the Wessex Youth Trust Handicap Hurdle (3.35 Ascot) and the handicapper has left some room for manoeuvre by assigning a rating of 135 for a racing weight of 10st 11lb this afternoon. I'll shop around, but I'd be happy if I can get him at 8/1 or higher.
Jolly's Cracked It, which dead-heated with Sternrubin in this race last year, is an interesting entry for Fry.
He picked up an injury after that race so he hasn't been seen in a year which puts me off backing him, although Fry has said that they've worked extremely hard with him at home.
He's also 6lb higher in the ratings this time around so I'm struggling to see why he's priced at 7/1 at the time of writing - although it would be nice to see him run well all the same after a long time off.
1.25 Lingfield: Bint Dandy
2.0 Lingfield: Grendisar
2.25 Ascot: Unowhatimeanharry
3.0 Ascot: Triolo D´Alene (e/w)
3.35 Ascot: Consul De Thaix (e/w)
Do the double
Soccer: Now odds-on to win the Premier League, Antonio Conte (right) brings Chelsea to Selhurst Park to take on a Crystal Palace side that have only won four games from 16 this term. In contrast, the Blues are flying high, six points clear at the top of the table. Although short at 8/13, they look like banker material this afternoon.
Racing: A winner of the Easter Classic and Winter Derby, Grendisar loves racing at Lingfield and will attempt to repeat his 2014 success in the Betway Quebec Stakes (2.0), priced in the region of 11/8. Although beaten in a Listed race here last month, it was the Invincible Spirit gelding’s first race after eight months off and trainer Marco Botti reckons he’ll be a lot sharper today. He’d previously clocked up a hat-trick of wins and can take this at Educate’s expense.