Jezki (right) returned from a near two-year absence with a win
PICTURE:Patrick McCann (racingpost.com/photos)
By Mark Storey 8:02AM 17 FEB 2017
PUNTERS appear to be convinced that the chief threat to Unowhatimeanharry in the Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle will also be carrying green and gold hoops, with Jezki reportedly “smashed up” on Thursday.
Available at 7-1 with Ladbrokes in the morning, the JP McManus-owned 2014 Champion Hurdle winner was cut to 9-2 by the firm after what was described as a gamble in Ireland. Bet365, Betfred and Coral likewise shortened the nine-year-old’s Stayers’ Hurdle odds, in their cases to 5-1 (from 6).
The identity of Jezki’s Cheltenham Festival target has been in the balance since he returned last month from nearly two years out to win convincingly over the Stan James Champion Hurdle trip of two miles at Navan.
The absence of Annie Power and Faugheen from the race heightened talk of a bid for the Champion Hurdle, but he is 12-1 for that with the sponsor and Thursday’s market moves suggest the Stayers’ could be the destination for the Jessica Harrington-trained star.
Decision yet to be made
Harrington said on Thursday a decision would be made after he contests the 2m Red Mills Trial Hurdle at Gowran Park on Saturday.
Harrington has no doubt the nine-year-old has lost none of his ability and, asked if he had the class to win either race at Cheltenham, said: “I think he has.”
Harrington added she knew nothing about the gamble on Jezki, who has only Unowhatimeanharry, a 6-4 shot, ahead of him in Ladbrokes’ Stayers’ Hurdle book.
The firm’s spokeswoman Nicola McGeady said: “Jezki has been smashed up for the Stayers’ Hurdle this morning ahead of his run at Gowran.
“The money we’ve seen suggests he will step up to three miles. Unowhatimeanharry is a short price but Jezki appears to be the punters’ alternative.”
McManus also owns two of the top three in the Champion Hurdle market, Buveur D’Air and Yanworth.
‘Conditions in his favour’
Harrington added: “We’re not leaning either way. It depends on how he gets on this Saturday. He’s got a great chance at the weights, he’s getting weight off Limini. Conditions are in his favour.”
The going at Gowran was soft to heavy on the hurdle course, with dry weather forecast up to Saturday.