Harry delivers knockout blow to exact revenge on Canyon
A day on from the spectacular finish to the Gold Cup, the County Kildare course served up another thriller when Unowhatimeanharry gained revenge on Cheltenham hero Nichols Canyon in a memorable duel in the Champion Stayers Hurdle.
A head separated the pair after a rousing battle from the final flight with Willie Mullins being thwarted of a €147,500 pot for the second consecutive day following Djakadam's defeat by Sizing John a day earlier.
It was a second big-money reversal for Mullins in his bid to reel in Gordon Elliott in the race for the trainers' title with only two days of the season remaining.
Nichols Canyon was gallant in defeat but the day belonged to Unowhatimeanharry who had lost his unbeaten record for the season when third behind Nichols Canyon in the Stayers' Hurdle at Cheltenham last month.
Winning trainer Harry Fry said: "We had high hopes for him going to Cheltenham but it just wasn't Unowhatimeanharry’s day and to see him bounce back like that is marvelllous.
"He's as tough as nails and dug deep when he had to. Noel [Fehily] knows him so well and gave him a brilliant ride. It was a fantastic race. Two top-class jockeys on two top-class horses. There was 18 lengths back to the third [Footpad] and that says plenty about the first two.
"I love coming to Punchestown and it has been a very lucky track for me. We look forward to bringing more horses here in the years to come."
Fehily said: “I thought we went very, very slow. Everything – plan A, plan B and plan C – went out the window as the last thing I wanted to be was in front two out.
"I just felt that because we hacked early on I had to go forward and, luckily, Unowhatimeanharry is such a tough little horse. I fired him at the final hurdle where he was very long but he's got the heart of a lion and doesn’t give up on you.”
Ladbrokes cut the JP McManus-owned winner to 6-1 (from 8) for next year’s Stayers Hurdle at Cheltenham and, according to Fry, the nine-year-old is likely to be kept hurdling next season.
“I’ll have to speak with Mr McManus and Frank Berry but as he is nine I’d say that it’s unlikely that he will go chasing. He’s off on a well-deserved summer break now.”
Willie Mullins took Nichols Canyon's defeat on the chin, commenting: "He's run a blinder and only just lost out on winning a ninth Grade 1. We'll see how he comes out of the race but if he's okay , I'd imagine the plan will be to take him to the US next month for the same three- mile Grade 1 he finished third in last year."
Footpad, the Irish Champion Hurdle runner-up, was third on his first attempt over the distance with De Plotting Shed a length and a half back in fourth place.
The McManus-owned Sutton Place was tracking the leaders when Mark Walsh pulled him up after three out. He was reported to be lame.
The Warren Greatrex-trained One Track Mind, winner of the race a year ago, finished fifth.