Will it all end in tears, just like Samcro?
When that horse was in his pomp, Michael O’Leary was at pains to try and offer some perspective on what had become the Samcro phenomenon.
“Samcro is not the second coming,’’ he said.
They were to prove prophetic words and we now know he isn’t the third, fourth, or fifth either.
At Naas last Sunday Envoi Allen, like Gigginstown’s Samcro, trained by Gordon Elliott, but owned by Cheveley Park Stud, confirmed he is currently the hottest property in National Hunt racing with a superb success in a Grade One novice hurdle.
Comparisons between Samcro and Envoi Allen are surely inevitable.
Envoi Allen is basically heading down the Samcro path.
Samcro was once unbeaten and regarded as unbeatable. There is exactly the same feel to Envoi Allen right now.
Samcro landed his only point-to-point, at Monks grange, and then added three wins in bumpers and four over flights.
The then six-year-old went to the Cheltenham Festival in 2018 with the nation waxing lyrical about him, including this observer, and we might have had to call on the IMF for a loan if he had failed in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle!
Such a drastic measure wasn’t required, however, and Samcro duly delivered and comfortably enough to boot.
But the first signs we may have over-rated him were there, because the two and three parts of a length he had to spare over Black Op seemed to be all that was in the locker.
Anyone who thought like that was to be proven right.
Since Cheltenham, Samcro has run seven times and has just one minor victory to show for it, taking a modest beginners’ chase at Down Royal at odds of 1-3.
Envoi Allen has yet to meet defeat, having started in a point-to-point at Ballinaboola on February 4, 2018. He won by 10 lengths and it is the only time has been odds against.
A 3-1 shot, he won by 10 lengths from a horse called Nearly Perfect, now trained in England by Neil King.
Nearly Perfect did not win in eight subsequent races for King, but finally got off the mark in a handicap chase at Wincanton a week ago.
There were only 10 runners and he was returned at 9-1.
In the care of Colin Bowe when winning his point, Envoi Allen has gone from strength to strength for Elliott.
He’s unbeaten in four bumpers and three over flights and is a triple Grade One winner.
Envoi Allen was very good at Cheltenham and better again when taking the Royal Bond at Fairyhouse but, I would argue, pushed his profile onto a new level at Naas on Sunday.
This was a brilliant display and here’s one who will be astonished if the form doesn’t prove utterly reliable.
The Willie Mullins-trained Elixir D’ainay made it a proper test and if there were any flaws in Envoi Allen then this contest would have found them.
For a couple of strides heading to the second last there was promise of a real battle.
But on landing over the obstacle, the winner was soon in control and was three and a half lengths to the good at the line.
There was so much to admire in the performance. Envoi Allen’s jumping, touch wood, was well-nigh perfect. He can go long, short, in or out, it makes no difference, the result is basically the same.
As well, if you look back at the race, you will note that Davy Russell at no stage even contemplated lifting the whip. What’s really encouraging also is the way the field was spread out at the post. It was another three and a half lengths to the smart Longhouse Poet in third and a further seven and a half lengths to Conflated in fourth.
The latter is important, on the basis he was a creditable third, beaten two and a quarter-lengths and four and a half lengths, behind Latest Exhibition and AndyDufresne in a Grade Two at Navan. That gives the Naas race a very solid appearance.
Essentially all the evidence is Envoi Allen is the real deal and fears of another Samcro will prove unfounded.
He will be a Cheltenham banker for us, surely in one of the novice races, and the only question we will be required to answer is just how much of the old hard cash are we willing to risk.
Come June, Russell will celebrate his 41st birthday and he’s at an age when notions of retiring have to be at least on his mind.
But they will surely remain firmly in the back-burner as long as Envoi Allen is around.
Remember, Michael Kinane came across Sea The Stars in the twilight of his career.
And a word about the runner up at Naas, Elixir D’ainay. My gut instinct is he is a very good horse and I will not be opposing him any day he turns up, away from Envoi Allen.
THE difference a set of jumps and a big galloping track can make to a horse was never better illustrated than byWillie Mullins’ AsterionForlonge in a two-mile maiden hurdle at Naas on Sunday.
He didn’t just win, he did so in some style, by 10 lengths from heavily-backed favourite, Gordon Elliott’s Pencilfulloflead.
Lightly raced, AsterionForlonge made his racecourse debut in a bumper at Thurles in November and was 1-4 to beat 10 rivals.
He won alright, but fell in by three-parts of a length from Watergate Lady.
Watergate Lady went on to finish fifth at Leopardstown, so the Thurles form didn’t amount to much.
But Naas showed that trundling around a place like Thurles, on the flat, was never going to work for him.
Asterion Forlonge, of course, had run in just one point-to-point, prior to moving onto the racecourse, beating Eddie Hales’ Assemble by six lengths at Oldtown.
That was a decent effort, given what Assemble has done subsequently.
Assemble is now trained by Joseph O’Brien and won a bumper at Fairyhouse, and his latest outing yielded success in a maiden hurdle atLimerick at Christmas.
You’d imagine Asterion Forlonge’s true calling will be as a chaser, but should more than pay his way as a hurdler.
A tendency to jump to his right at Naas might see such as Fairyhouse and Punchestown as his most likely spring targets!
Mullins’ Cash Back was seriously impressive at Naas in winning a two-mile beginners’ chase.
No more than an adequate hurdler, he’s already miles better at this game.
Cash Back does not waste energy by clearing his fences with loads to spare. He’s fast and accurate and there’s plenty to like about him.