J. P. McManus’ Unowhatimeanharry, unbeaten in his last eight starts for trainer Harry Fry, continued to head the betting for Thursday’s £300,000 Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle (Eng-Gr. 1), the first leg of the $500,000 TVV Capital Iroquois-Cheltenham Challenge.
The nine-year-old was listed as a heavy 5-to-4 consensus pick among 13 likely starters for the three-mile feature of Thursday’s Cheltenham Festival program. The race will be broadcast on major U.S. betting platforms, including TVG and Twin Spires.
Post time for the Stayers’ Hurdle in Cheltenham is 3:30 p.m., which is 11:30 a.m. EDT and 10:30 a.m. CDT. Because England does not change to daylight savings time until later in March, Eastern U.S. time is currently four hours behind Cheltenham rather than the normal five-hour difference.
Leading Irish trainer Willie Mullins’ pairing of Shaneshill and Nichols Canyon remained in the betting picture at odds of 8-to-1 and 10-to-1, respectively. Both competed in last year’s $200,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1), with Shaneshill finishing a neck behind winner Rawnaq, and Nichols Canyon was third, another three lengths back.
Vroum Vroum Mag, a member of the Mullins team who had been under consideration for the Stayers’ Hurdle, finished second in Tuesday’s OLGB Mares’ Hurdle (Eng-Gr. 1).
Also attracting betting attention for the Stayers’ Hurdle is Jezki, the 2014 Stan James Champion Hurdle (Eng-Gr. 1) winner trained by Jessica Harrington. He was listed at 7-to-1. At 8-to-1 was 2015 Stayers’ Hurdle winner Cole Harden, who had finished 1 3/4 lengths behind Unowhatimeanharry in the Cleve Hurdle on Cheltenham’s Festival Trials Day in January. Also attracting some attention is West Approach, a novice who finished third in the Cleve.
To claim the TVV Capital Iroquois-Cheltenham Challenge, a horse must win both the Calvin Houghland Iroquois and the Stayers’ Hurdle in a 12-month period. This year’s Calvin Houghland Iroquois, the culmination of a record-setting Iroquois Steeplechase in 2017, is Saturday, May 13.