Cheltenham: Envoi Allen’s class can shine through in Ballymore

Cheltenham: Envoi Allen’s class can shine through in Ballymore
Jockey Keith O’Donoghue on Envoi Allen. Photo: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Envoi Allen has always been held in the highest regard, and nothing he has done on the track has done anything to diminish the esteem in which he is held. Isn’t it great, though, that the six-year-old, who is unbeaten in six runs inside the rails and one in the point to point fields, will have a stern examination of his ability in the Grade 1 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle which opens this afternoon’s card?

It’s impossible to crab his from. He usually wins with quite a degree of authority but showed in last year’s Champion Bumper at this venue that he is also willing to put his head down and battle. His win in the Royal Bond at Fairyhouse could hardly look stronger, with stablemate and runner-up Abacadabras winning a Grade 1 on his next start, and third-placed Darver Star finishing runner-up in the Irish Champion Hurdle.

If there’s one question which Envoi Allen has to answer it’s the trip. He hasn’t run over two mile and five furlongs, but there isn’t a lot to suggest he won’t get home. It’s quite likely he’ll be every bit as good, and his class can shine through.

Another horse putting a perfect record on the line in this race is Sporting John, and he won’t be brushed aside easily. Philip Hobbs’ five-year-old was very impressive last time and, while he lacks form at the top level, he should not be underestimated. The third unbeaten horse in the line-up is The Big Breakaway, trained by Colin Tizzard. He adds further quality to the race, as does The Big Getaway.

Defi Du Seuil can be crowned champion two miler this afternoon by taking the Grade 1 Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase, the feature on day two of the Festival.

Philip Hobbs’ horse won his first seven outings over hurdles, including the Triumph Hurdle of 2017, and boasts a record of six wins in nine outings to date over fences, including a deeply impressive display in the JLT Chase at this meeting in 2019.

Cheltenham: Envoi Allen’s class can shine through in Ballymore
Envoi Allen: Hasn’t run over today’s trip before but there isn’t a lot to suggest he won’t get home. Picture: Healy Racing

On the latter occasion, he jumped well, travelled best and had the measure of his rivals, including subsequent Grade 1 winner Lostintranslation, from a long way out.

He finished behind Chacun Pour Soi at the Punchestown festival, but end-of-season form is often very difficult to gauge and he can reverse it. He is three from three this season, remains open to improvement, and can prove too strong for today’s rivals when the race reaches its climax.

Minella Indo has been quite lightly raced since winning the Grade 1 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at this meeting in 2019 but can complete back-to-back success in Grade 1 races at the meeting by taking the RSA Chase.

A horse with considerable scope, he jumps really well and that will be a huge asset over today’s trip. He races keenly but still finishes out his races very well and he has the potential to develop into a Gold Cup horse for the future. He can advertise those claims with victory today.

Old rival Allaho finished nine lengths behind him in the RSA Chase and got closer at Punchestown. It’s difficult to make a solid can as to why he will reverse the form now but he, too, is a brilliant jumper of fences. Champ is not lightly dismissed but he fell here last time and is facing a couple of rivals that will expose the chinks in his armour – if they exist.

Appreciate It has looked a bit special in his last couple of outings and can complete his hat-trick by giving his trainer, Willie Mullins, a remarkable tenth victory in the Weatherby Champion Bumper. In winning a Grade 2 at the Dublin Racing Festival, he made light work of smart opposition headed by Risk Factor. Whether he delivers today or not, he looks the type to excel over obstacles.

Darling Daughter looks a decent each-way option at a huge price.

She was relatively unfancied in the market when winning a Grade 2 mares’ bumper last time, but the manner in which she quickened up to fend off some very useful rivals said plenty for her ability.

Cheltenham: Envoi Allen’s class can shine through in Ballymore

Runner-up Politesse won next time, as did sixth-placed The West Awaits and eighth-placed Castra Vetera.

While the race was slowly run and perhaps not the most satisfactory to be basing form on, Darling Daughter could hardly do more than win as she did, and the point to point winner should not be lightly dismissed.

Tronador looks sure to run a big race in the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle. Gordon Elliott’s horse won a hurdle at the second time of asking and finished an eye-catching third behind stablemate Floueur next time.

A mark of 129 looks very reasonable, he wears blinkers for the first time in a hurdle, and, crucially in such a tough race for four-year-olds, he stays very well.

He is just preferred to Theatre Of War, who finished a couple of places in front of Tronador at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting.

He had much more experience than the selection, but connections must be happy with his mark of 130 as they have kept him fresh with this race in mind.

In a tough race, he is also worth consideration as an each-way play.

More on this topic

Al Boum Photo joins the greats with second Gold Cup successAl Boum Photo joins the greats with second Gold Cup success

Pat Keane: Power not to blame for Benie Des Dieux’s demisePat Keane: Power not to blame for Benie Des Dieux’s demise

Ruby Walsh: Another magical Festival and another Irish celebrationRuby Walsh: Another magical Festival and another Irish celebration

Mug's Game: Okay, so I was steeped but a win is a win — isn’t it?Mug's Game: Okay, so I was steeped but a win is a win — isn’t it?