Harry to defend Long Walk crown
The Long Walk Hurdle is the showpiece contest on a cracking day of racing and the nine-runner field means it should make for a competitive affair.
Harry Fry will be hoping his stable star UNOWHATIMEANHARRY can bounce back to winning ways in the three miles contest. The son of Sir Harry Lewis tops BTO+ ratings heading into it and is also well clear on official ratings. On his day, there aren't many better staying hurdlers than Unowhatimeanharry and his eight-race winning streak highlighted that. The nine-year-old was unable to clinch a second Cheltenham Festival win when he was third to Nichols Canyon in the Stayers' Hurdle last term but got his revenge at Punchestown next time out. Unowhatimeanharry has proved this season that he can still mix it with the best, despite touching 10 years of age. Giving weight away, Fry's charge battled to a one-and-a-quarter length success at Aintree in November, with Top Notch since coming out and winning the Peterborough Chase. The JP McManus-owned gelding was forced to play bridesmaid last time out - but not to the horse expected. Unowhatimeanharry got the better of the returning Thistlecrack in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury but was scalped by shock winner Beer Goggles. Nevertheless, the gelding returns to a circuit he knows well and won this race last season. What's equally impressive is when Fry and jockey Barry Geraghty team up at Ascot they boast a perfect 100% better than expected strike rate together.
LIL ROCKEFELLER is a warrior and constantly lauded for his heroics. Neil King's charge always runs his heart out and he's developed into a highly useful sort. The son of Hard Spun finished ahead of Unowhatimeanharry in the Stayers' Hurdle in March, running a gallant second that day. Lil Rockerfeller clearly needed the run in the West Yorkshire Hurdle on his seasonal reappearance at Wetherby and greatly came on for the effort. Last time out the five-year-old delivered a career-best run to win by one-and-a-quarter lengths. Lil Rockerfeller could easily improve for that effort and i stepping back up in trip. King means business when he sends runners to Ascot and shows a 96% better than expected win rate at the course.
The horse that finished behind Lil Rockerfeller last time was L'AMI SERGE. The son of King's Theatre displayed plenty of potential as a novice but suffered a slight blip in form when he was sent over fences. Nevertheless, he's starting to recapture his best form having finished second in the County Hurdle at the Festival then winning the Select Hurdle on the final day of the campaign. Nicky Henderson's charge also collected the valuable Haies D'auteuil Hurdle at Auteuil yet was scalped last time by Lil Rockerfeller. The seven-year-old reopposes on level weights, however, after being forced to concede six pounds in the Coral Hurdle and things should be closer.
Henderson has also managed to get the best out of THOMAS CAMPBELL. The son of Yeats has really kicked on as a second-seasoner chaser and stuck on gamely to win a Cheltenham handicap on heavy ground last time out. He has the scope to improve and is second-best rated on BTO+ figures. Thomas Campbell will be in the hands of Nico De Boinville and he shows a 17% better than expected strike rate riding for Henderson.
SAM SPINNER created a buzz after a rampant success at Haydock last time. Jedd O'Keefe's charge overcame the heavy ground at Haydock last time to hack up by 17 lengths in the Betfair Stayers' Handicap Hurdle, with THE WORLDS END back in eighth. As a result, the son of Black Sam Bellamy takes his place at the top table and would revel on the ground if there's much rain.