Envoi Allen was the envy of Prestbury Park as he gave punters the perfect start to Day Two of the Cheltenham Festival by landing the odds in the Grade 1 Ballymore Novice Hurdle.
Trained by Gordon Elliott and ridden by Davy Russell for owners Cheveley Park Stud, there was a moment of anxiety as he appeared to have something to do turning for home, particularly with The Big Getaway enjoying himself on the front end, tracked by the keen-going Easywork.
However, once Russell applied a little pressure, Envoi Allen responded in the style of the true star he is rapidly becoming. He quickened in tremendous style to lead just strides from the final hurdle, flicked through the top of the flight, and ran on stoutly up the hill to extend his perfect record under all codes to eight.
The form of his previous outings had been franked on Tuesday, and punters were content to take the odds about the six-year-old, sending him off the 4-7 favourite. He obliged his supporters with a fine finish.
He has now won three Grade 1s over hurdles, twice at the Cheltenham Festival, and if he is beatable, none of his rivals thus far have managed to find a chink in his armour.
It was a third win in the race for Youghal jockey Russell, successful aboard First Lieutenant in 2011 and Windsor Park in 2015, and a second for Elliott, who saddled Samcro to win the race in 2018.
Russell said: “He’s just a marvellous horse. It’s great to be associated with him.
“It’s a hard one to call. When he settles he switches off the engines and runs in neutral for a lot of the race. You don’t know when to pick him up then, because if you set him alight early he could do too much.
“He had to work for it, and that’s what you get when you get a good horse.
“Today was just perfect.”
Willie Mullins said of the runner-up: “Our fellow ran great and was beaten by a proper horse. We’re happy.
“He looks a real chasing type, with his style of jumping. I imagine he’ll be an RSA horse this time next year, but we might meet the winner there as well!”