UNOWHATIMEANHARRY just held off Nichols Canyon in a thrilling finish to the Grade 1 Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle at Punchestown.
Sent off favourite for the equivalent race at the Cheltenham Festival, the nine-year-old had lost his long unbeaten record since joining Harry Fry when only third behind Nichols Canyon.
Nichols Canyon was favourite to confirm the form and provide Willie Mullins with some much-needed prize-money in his attempt to chase down Gordon Elliott, and at the top of the home straight Ruby Walsh appeared to have everything covered.
Noel Fehily had kicked on some way out on Unowhatimeanharry (4/1) and stole a few lengths, but Walsh still looked confident on jumping the last a length down. However, while he was edging closer with every stride, the post appeared just in time to give Fry one of the biggest wins of his career.
"What a fantastic race, Nichols Canyon pushed us all the way," said Fry. "Obviously Cheltenham wasn't our day but it's great to bounce back in a brilliant race like this. He travelled really well and Noel was brilliant on him, knew when to press the button and kept enough up his sleeve."
Lil Rockerfeller adopted his usual front-running tactics under new jockey Richard Johnson, but he was a spent force with three furlongs to run this time after his heroic effort saw him finish second at Cheltenham.
When Fehily kicked clear, Daryl Jacob on Footpad and Walsh where the two main dangers but Footpad appeared to fail to see out the trip. A head separated the big two at the line with a further 18 lengths back to Footpad.
Unfortunately the promising Sutton Place was pulled-up sharply by Mark Walsh half a mile out.
Fehily said: "I just thought we went very slow. Plans A, B and C went out of the window because the last thing I wanted was to be in front two out.
"I had to go forward but luckily he's a tough little horse, he was very long at the last but he came up for me and he's got the heart of a lion."
FRY AND FEHILY DOUBLE-UP
Minella Awards provided Noel Fehily and Harry Fry with a blacktype double in the Grade B Shamrock Enterprises Handicap Hurdle. Just half an hour after Unowhatimeanharry gave the pair their Grade 1 win, Minella Awards came with a late run to deny Philip Hobbs' No Comment in a finish dominated by the British raiders.
No Comment had beaten Minella Awards at Plumpton in January, but when it mattered most the Fry runner was once again primed to run for his life.
Having performed well at Cheltenham and Aintree No Comment finally looked like getting a big win but Minella Awards, winner of the EBF Final at Sandown last time out, quickened up better. The pair were sent off 7/1 joint-favourites and were separated by a length. Willie Mullins' Screaming Rose picked up place money in third.
Fehily said: "I had a lovely spin around, I just missed the carnage early and after that it was straightforward. I've said it before, but what a trainer Harry Fry is at producing them on the big day.
"When this fella was beaten by the second at Plumpton he kept telling he wasn't right and that in the spring he would improve - he was right."
Fry said: "This makes up for yesterday when Drumcliff was brought down early. Today has been a different story and what a 40 minutes.
"We just felt this lad would come to himself in the spring and I'm pleased for his owners, who are very patient. Noel was brilliant again, he's a huge part of our success."