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Cheltenham Festival: Stayers Hurdle Betting Preview

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Cheltenham Festival: Stayers Hurdle Betting Preview

Run as the World Hurdle from 2005-2016, the Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle reverts back to its more traditional name for this year's event, run over three miles.

The highlight of day three of the Festival, a host of top-class names have won the contest including four-time winner Big Buck's, three-time victor Inglis Drever and two-time winner Baracouda. Last year's winner was Thistlecrack which reiterates the quality of the event.

The favourite for this race is the Harry Fry-trained Unowhatimeanharry at 11/8 with BetVictor and he rates as a strong selection for me to win the Grade One. Winner of the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle at the last year's Cheltenham Festival, the nine-year-old son of Sir Harry Lewis has gone from strength to strength this year with three comfortable victories in graded company.

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The gelding began the season with a decisive six-length victory at Newbury in the Grade Two Long Distance Hurdle in November, before taking apart a decent field in the Grade One Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot by four and a half-lengths, however he was aided by the last flight fall of Ballyoptic in that event.

Fry's charge delivered a decent performance at Cheltenham last time which highlighted his credentials for this content when accounting for 2015 Stayers' Hurdle winner Cole Harden with a length and three-quarter victory in the Grade Two Cleeve Hurdle on Festival Trials Day.

In the build up to the Festival, many have questioned Unowhatimeanharry. However, at a general 11/8, he looks decent value, given he has most of this field in behind him so far this year. A horse who does little out in front, the gelding has been impressive if not spectacular in open company this season but he seems a relentless galloper, who is very slick at his hurdles and who should take an awful lot of beating in the three-mile event.

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If the race does develop into a war of attrition, I would still fancy Fry's charge to come out on top, given his battling qualities which he showed in the Albert Bartlett at Prestbury Park last year. With Noel Fehily back aboard the gelding, following Barry Geraghty's injury, that looks a shrewd booking and I would be disappointed if Unowhatimeanharry wasn't up to winning this.

Dangers are aplenty in this field particularly from Andrea and Graham Wylie's duo Shaneshill and Nichols Canyon, both trained by Willie Mullins. The latter looks to be getting worse with age however and has looked a moderate horse in graded company this season in Ireland, whilst Shaneshill won a weak Grade Two event at Gowran Park last time.

With that in mind, the greatest threat could come from British-trained horses Ballyoptic and West Approach, who like the selection look to be on an upward curve. Ballyoptic has finished behind Unowhatimeanharry on three occasions this year, although he did fall in the Long Walk Hurdle.

A creditable fourth to the selection in the Cleeve Hurdle, he could be perfectly primed for the Festival by Nigel Twiston-Davies but he still has on ratings alone 5lbs to find with the selection and was a comprehensive nine and a quarter-length fourth last time. That could suggest Colin Tizzard's West Approach, third to the selection in the Cleeve last year under a superb Ruby Walsh ride could emerge as a potential danger.

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Supposedly heading for this race over the Albert Bartlett, he looks a horse who will continue to improve with every run but I feel the field have a lot to do if they are going to trouble Unowhatimeanharry who has course and distance form in the book and who looks to be improving with age.

Selection (Scale of 1-5 Points)

Unowhatimeanharry 5pts Win - 11/8 at BetVictor

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Words By: Danny Archer

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