Racing commentator Simon Holt is backing Singlefarmpayment to deservedly land a big prize when he likes up at Ascot on Saturday.
On a splendid Christmas card at Ascot on Saturday, UNOWHATIMEANHARRY looks the classiest act on show and can repeat last year's win in the JLT Reve De Sivola Long Walk Hurdle.
Harry Fry's stayer, who has improved way beyond expectations, scored decisively 12 months ago when beating the re-opposing Lil Rockerfeller by four-and-a-half lengths with the rest well beaten off.
A subsequent win in the Cleeve Hurdle ensured that Unowhatimeanharry would start a short-priced favourite for the Stayers Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March but, on ground described as good, he appeared to run slightly below par in a close third behind Nichols Canyon and Lil Rockerfeller (a 33/1 outsider).
Barry Geraghty's mount proved that form wrong at Punchestown on his final start of the season when, in the hands of Noel Fehily, he got the better of Nichols Canyon in one of the finishes of the season.
I suspect that a preference for plenty of give in the ground is important, and conditions may not have been as testing as advertised when the selection met with a shock defeat by Beer Goggles at Newbury on his most recent start.
With soft going in prospect at Ascot, Unowhatimeanharry can bounce back from that and take all the beating.
Lil Rockerfeller is again likely to have a say, confirming a liking for this course when taking advantage of the 6lb he received from L'Ami Serge over nearly two-and-a-half miles here last month following a slightly disappointing reappearance at Wetherby where he probably needed the run.
There are few tougher horses in training but the runner-up, a winner at Auteuil (3m1f) in the summer, now renews rivalry at level weights and, while a little flakey on occasions in the closing stages, L'Ami Serge could prove the selection's biggest danger.
Both Sam Spinner and Thomas Campbell have done all that could possibly be asked of them this season, but take a step up in class following steep ratings increases.
In the following Lavazza Silver Cup Handicap Chase, your loyal columnist will row along with SINGLEFARMPAYMENT yet again.
Despite falling three out when looking held in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury last time (he might have finished close to the eventual third Regal Encore who re-opposes here), it was impressive how Tom George's chaser got into a challenging position so quickly from towards the back of the field.
Second to Cogry at Cheltenham previously (needing the run) and second again behind Un Temps Pour Tout at the Festival last March, there is surely a valuable chase win in Singlefarmpayment - and this could be it on a course where he ran well to chase home Beware The Bear just over a year ago.
Regal Encore bids to follow-up last year's victory in this race off a 6lb higher mark but jumped poorly here behind Go Conquer in early November and, not always one to rely on, needs to reproduce his Newbury effort.
Go Conquer, in contrast a fine jumper, never looked like being collared that day but conditions were quicker and, while progressive now, he hasn't always convinced as a sure stayer over three miles in the soft.
Finally, ELGIN is fancied to complete a hat-trick of big-handicap victories by taking the Racing Welfare Handicap Hurdle under top weight.
Despite being forced to carry 11st12lb here, the handicapper was not too harsh on Alan King's improving hurdler when raising him just 6lb for winning the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham last time since when the third and fourth, Old Guard and The New One, have performed well.
Elgin needs to have improved to confirm earlier course and distance placings with Air Horse One (fourth and 5lb better off), fifth-placed Verdana Blue (winner subsequently and just 3lb better) and Caid Du Lin (seventh and 7lb better) but I'm pretty sure he has done so and the form has worked out well.
Third that day was High Bridge who went on to beat Charlie Parcs at Newbury. On lines of form, the latter could have a small edge over the selection at these weights, but that does not take into account Elgin's improved effort to win at Cheltenham.
Posted at 1210 GMT on 22/12/17