Is Envoi Allen as good as he looks?
Back in the olden days, Irish racing followers used to shorten the winter by playing the ‘guess the banker’ for Cheltenham - though that when our hopes seldom extended past two or three winners. The pastime has lessened in importance recently as we now regularly capture more than a dozen wins. Notwithstanding this, Envoi Allen still looks like one of those old-fashioned ‘Irish Bankers.’ It would be tempting to say that ‘today is the day’ for Envoi Allen to prove that all the talk of his greatness and invincibility are justified but this would be unfair. He has already gone a long way to prove both to be true in a short but illustrious career.
Bought by the well-financed Cheveley Park flat operation for £400,000 out of the Colin Bowe yard after an impressive win in his only point-to-point, he remains unbeaten in seven races since, three bumpers and four novice hurdles. Gordon Elliott has procrastinated on his chosen race in the lead up, but Plan A has prevailed, and he goes to post in the opening Ballymore today over two miles and five.
Envoi is like that annoying school day classmate who had all the smarts, was captain of the sports teams and also the most popular kid in his grade. A stunning looking six-year old bay gelding, he took the champion bumper on this day last year and has built well on that success, starting with a Down Royal maiden in November and following up in a couple of Grade One’s at Fairyhouse and Naas.
Even if Envoi wasn’t here today this would still be a high-class contest with the likes of Sporting John and the Big Getaway involved. And although It’s hard to justify backing a horse at even money in any race at the festival, let alone a novice hurdle, but the way global stock markets have been behaving recently, Envoi may be the safest investment of our times.
Bumper Time. Mullins Time?
Speaking of Cheveley Park, their short but expensive expansion into jump racing is beginning to grow green shoots of success well beyond Envoi Allen. Malone Road was an exceptionally promising bumper horse last year but is confined to barracks this year due to injury and Allaho has a serious chance of winning the second race today, the RSA Novice chase. If all goes to plan, they could easily be facing into a treble when the last race of the day rolls around, the always fascinating Champion Bumper.
Their representative here is the Willie Mullins-trained Ferny Hollow and if Envoi is the class swat, Ferny is that eejit at the back of the room throwing paper airplanes when the teacher’s back is turned. Another expensive purchase from the Colin Bowe yard, Ferny Hollow, a well-bred brother to four individual winners, has stared at odds-on in all his three starts to date, but only prevailed in one, when he hacked up in his latest start at Fairyhouse last month.
While clearly talented, his concentration and resolution have both looked questionable in all his races to date. The trainer’s nephew and stable insider, jockey Danny Mullins, emphasised these concerns in a recent interview. ”It’s a tough race where anything can happen.
He (Ferny Hollow) looked a headcase to me early on and looked a headcase the last day as well,” said Danny. “He has loads of ability but there are so many question marks about his ability. Too many question marks for a champion bumper.”
But as Uncle Willie has only won one of the last five champion Bumpers, he’s still due another one. Step forward Appreciate It, talented, straightforward, uncomplicated and reliable. His win at Leopardstown in February was supremely impressive and if this year’s winner is to emulate the progress made by Envoi Allen, this is by far the most likely candidate.