Unowhatimeanharry regains Punchestown's Champion Stayers title

Fry veteran repeats 2017 victory

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Unowhatimeanharry repeated his win of two years ago in the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle at the Punchestown Festival.

Harry Fry’s veteran was once the leading staying hurdler in the division, but his last two runs suggested his best days were long behind him.

Ridden by Mark Walsh for just the second time, after Noel Fehily’s retirement, the 16-1 shot travelled much more sweetly than normal – in the first three or four throughout.

When the pace-setting Killultagh Vic gave way, there were plenty still in with a chance – including Bapaume, Vision Des Flos and Aux Ptits Soins – but the British-trained raider stayed on best of all.

The 11-year-old found plenty for pressure, powering up the run-in, and he had too much for Bacardys – who was three lengths away.

The 9-4 favourite Bapaume was back in third, with Killultagh Vic fourth.

Vision Des Flos made a bad blunder when just headed at the last, while Not Many Left fell at the same flight.

Fry traced Unowhatimeanharry’s moderate form of late to a mishap in the JLT Hurdle just before Christmas.

He said: “He took the first fall of his career at Ascot, and then didn’t show any of his old spark in his last two runs.

“We were coming here in hope rather than expectation.

“Mark (Walsh) said at Aintree he didn’t enjoy himself down the inner, so we let him out handy with a bit of light – and he’s come alive.”

It was an emotional as well as unexpected success for the Dorset trainer.

“I’m over the moon,” added Fry.

“We brought a lorry load here, and if we could pick any of them to win this week it would be him – but to be honest he was possibly the least likely.

“He’s just thrived since he’s come over here, and the change of scenery appears to have sparked him up.”

The winner was a breakthrough horse for Fry in the early stages of his career.

“He’s put us on the map and won countless races for us,” he said.

“At 11 years of age to come back and win a Grade One, especially after the way he’s run recently, is special.

“There was a chance if today hadn’t gone well it could have been his last run, so we’ll cherish this win.

“The race he won here two years ago was a real battle up the straight with Nichols Canyon, and he showed those battling qualities again.

“We’ll enjoy this and enjoy the summer, and he’ll tell us (if he comes back in training next season).”

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