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Long Walk Hurdle Preview – Ascot 23rd December

Last updated: December 20, 2017 by Leon Marshal

The feature race at Ascot on Saturday 23rd December is the £100,000 Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle over three miles.

The race is one of the leading trials for the Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March. The race was changed from a handicap to a conditions race in 1971. Five horses have won the Long Walk and the Stayers’ Hurdle. Derring Rose (1980), Baracouda (2001), My Way de Solzen (2005) and Thistlecrack (2015) all completed the double. Big Buck’s won this race and the Stayers’ for three consecutive seasons between 2009 and 2011.

Baracouda would go on to win the Long Walk on four occasions while Reve De Sivola was successful three times between 2012 and 2014. Last year’s race was won by Unowhatimeanharry who bids to add his name to the list of multiple winners on Saturday.

Horse running at the Long Walk hurdle

Unowhatimeanharry bids for Long Walk double

The nine-year-old is trained by Harry Fry and has won ten of his 23 races over hurdles. He was a progressive handicapper in 2015-16, advancing from a mark of 123 to win the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle and achieve a rating of 152.

Leading Irish owner JP McManus bought the gelding after the festival and he was trained for the Stayers Hurdle last season. His winning run of eight races was brought to an end when third in that race behind Nichols Canyon in March. He resumed winning ways at Punchestown next time, reversing the form with his Cheltenham conqueror. A victory at Aintree in November was followed by a shock defeat behind Beer Goggles at Newbury last time. He was under pressure from the third last but could not wear down the 40-1 outsider.

Nicky Henderson won the Long Walk with Punchestowns in 2008. He has two representatives this year with L’Ami Serge and Thomas Campbell. L’Ami Serge is a seven-year-old gelding by King’s Theatre who returned to hurdles last year after a spell over fences. He was beaten a length and a half by Lil Rockerfeller at Ascot in November. That was over two and a half miles and he was having his first run since June.

Thomas Campbell has won two handicap hurdles at Cheltenham this season and now takes a step up in class. He was always travelling best when beating Anteros off a mark of 148 last time out. He is certainly entitled to take his chance at this level.

Lil Rockerfeller chasing Grade 1 victory

Neil King saddles the consistent Lil Rockerfeller, a six-year-old gelding by Hard Spun. The trip was arguably on the sharp side last time so it was a game effort to repel the challenge of L’Ami Serge. That was a big improvement on his seasonal debut when third to Colin’s Sister at Wetherby. He finished ahead of Unowhatimeanharry when runner-up in the Stayers’ Hurdle. His overall form suggests that he does not want the ground too testing.

Horses jumping the hurdle at Ascot

Sam Spinner romped to a wide-margin victory in a valuable handicap at Haydock Park last month. The going was heavy that day and the son of Black Sam Bellamy seemed to relish the conditions. He was rated 139 that day so still needs to find plenty of improvement. Tom George’s The Worlds End started favourite that day but faded to finish a remote eighth. He was useful novice and is held in high regard by connections. Taquin Du Seuil was third behind Beer Goggles and Unowhatimeanharry at Newbury but his best form has been at shorter trips.

Cheltenham International Hurdle Betting Tips

Unowhatimeanharry @15-8 Ladbrokes

The Long Walk Hurdle is due off at 2.25 at Ascot on Saturday 23rd December and will be televised live on ITV4.