British Thoroughbred Retraining Centre Hurdle | 2m4f, 4yo+ | RUK
On a day when the season really clicks into gear for Harry Fry, the trainer will be hoping stable star Unowhatimeanharry can rediscover some of his old spark.
Fry sent out 13 runners over jumps during the whole of October and nearly matches that in one day with ten horses declared for Aintree and Wincanton.
Leading the charge is three-time Grade 1-winner Unowhatimeanharry, who might be more effective over three miles but made a winning reappearance in this race last year.
That was as good as it got last season and his campaign ultimately fizzled out with a disappointing display in the Stayers’ Hurdle.
However, the ten-year-old appears to be showing the right signs in advance of his return to action.
“We’ve given him a good break and recauterised his soft palate, and he seems as well as ever at home,” said Fry.
“He won the race last season and then ran well at Newbury, but by the time he ran in the Long Walk he certainly wasn’t at his best and then we tried to get him back for the Stayers’ Hurdle but he wasn’t himself. It was the same story with some of mine as they weren’t quite right from December onwards.”
Wholestone fared much better in the Stayers’ Hurdle when third behind winner Penhill and although he has earned a reputation as a Cheltenham specialist, he also finished a fine second to Identity Thief here in April.
His trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies said: “He’s fine, we wanted to run him over three miles at Wetherby but the ground wasn’t suitable so off we go here.”
Vision Des Flos, second in Grade 1 novice hurdles at the Grand National meeting and Punchestown festival, returns to hurdles after unseating on his chase debut at Ffos Las last month.
“He was unlucky to stumble and part company with Tom Scudamore on his first try over fences,” said assistant trainer Joe Tizzard.
“We thought we’d have a go at a decent pot over hurdles to see where we are. He was a really decent novice hurdler and if he’s good enough we might stay over hurdles this season.”
Last season’s Cleeve Hurdle winner Agrapart, whose form ties in closely with Wholestone, makes his first start since being overturned as the 4-7 favourite at Haydock in February.
The David Pipe-trained Un Temps Pour Tout, who won this race two years ago, is coming back off an even greater 606-day absence. He makes his first start since winning the the 2017 Ultima Handicap Chase and, like Unowhatimeanharry, returns having had wind surgery.
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