Saturday 18 November 2017

WATCH - Unowhatimeanharry touches off Nichols Canyon in thrilling stayers hurdle at Punchestown

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Unowhatimeanharry just held off Nichols Canyon in a thrilling finish to the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle at Punchestown.

Sent off favourite for the equivalent race at the Cheltenham Festival, the nine-year-old had lost his long unbeaten record since joining Harry Fry when only third behind Nichols Canyon.

Nichols Canyon was favourite to confirm the form and provide Willie Mullins with some much-needed prize-money in his attempt to chase down Gordon Elliott, and at the top of the home straight Ruby Walsh appeared to have everything covered.

Noel Fehily had kicked on some way out on Unowhatimeanharry (4-1) and stole a few lengths, but Walsh still looked confident on jumping the last a length down.

However, while he was edging closer with every stride, the post appeared just in time to give Fry one of the biggest wins of his career.

"What a fantastic race, Nichols Canyon pushed us all the way," said Fry.

"Obviously Cheltenham wasn't our day but it's great to bounce back in a brilliant race like this.

"He travelled really well and Noel was brilliant on him, knew when to press the button and kept enough up his sleeve."

Lil Rockerfeller adopted his usual front-running tactics under new jockey Richard Johnson, but he was a spent force with three furlongs to run this time after his heroic effort saw him finish second at Cheltenham.

When Fehily kicked clear, Daryl Jacob on Footpad and Walsh where the two main dangers but Footpad appeared to fail to see out the trip.

A head separated the big two at the line with a further 18 lengths back to Footpad.

Unfortunately the promising Sutton Place was pulled up sharply by Mark Walsh half a mile out.

Fehily said: "I just thought we went very slow. Plans A, B and C went out of the window because the last thing I wanted was to be in front two out.

"I had to go forward but luckily he's a tough little horse, he was very long at the last but he came up for me and he's got the heart of a lion."

Mullins, so narrowly denied in the Punchestown Gold Cup with Djakadam on Wednesday, said: "We are just not getting the rub of the green, I suppose.

"However they are running well. Footpad was running a good race and I was hoping he might finish nearer, but for the first two to open up 18 lengths was a lot."

Sutton Place returned slightly lame, it later emerged.

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