Sunday at Fairyhouse was an important day for Gordon Elliott as once more he took the wraps off some of his stable stars, and the day could scarcely have gone better for the local trainer.
Envoi Allen is the apple of his trainer’s eye and his performance in the Grade 1 baroneracing.com Drinmore Novice Chase was poetry in motion.
The Champion Bumper and Ballymore winner looks even better over fences and has Cheltenham firmly in his sights once more after he made light of three rivals who, admittedly not in his class, are useful sorts at their own level.
Measured jumping and an ability to quicken without having to be asked a question were the features of this flawless display, and the manner in which he strode out after the last was breathtaking. What he might do when fully tuned and facing superior rivals will be the highlight of the season.
“A clear round, number one, is all you want,” said a relieved Elliott. “Jack (Kennedy) said he was foot-perfect all the way.
“He said the second-last was tricky for us last year (where Samcro fell) so he just wanted to get him back on his hocks at it, and once he gave him a squeeze at the back of it it was all over.
“The one thing he did say is that he had a good blow and there’s plenty of improvement in him. He hasn’t been killed coming here today, and Cheltenham is the plan.
“When he gets into a real race is when you’ll see the real horse. We might miss Christmas and go to Punchestown in January and the onto the Marsh - that’s the plan.”
Noel and Valerie Moran have invested significant sums in their racehorse operation in recent times and Zanahiyr gave the owners a first graded success when running away with the Grade 3 Bar One Racing Price Boost Juvenile Hurdle.
After long-time leader Druid’s Altar was overtaken by Saint Sam and the eventual winner, it was a case of which would find most in the finish.
The imposing Zanahiyr moved best for longest, jumped cleanly and pulled right away in the manner of a horse which will make it at the highest level.
“We thought he was nice at home,” said Elliott. “He did it well in Ballinrobe and we thought he had come on a lot from the race. You’re always a bit nervous when you see Willie with a dual winner out of France but I thought it was a good performance.
“Jack said he did everything very easy. He’s a big horse and he’s going to get stronger. He’s not just a juvenile, he could be a nice horse for those good staying races on the Flat.”
Apart from when beaten on very testing ground on his bumper debut, Ballyadam hadn’t had too many questions asked of him, so it was great to see him put his head down and pick up for pressure in the Grade 1 baroneracing.com Royal Bond Novice Hurdle. It was a race run at a modest pace - 10 seconds slower than the juvenile hurdle in which Druid’s Altar went off very fast - and could have turned into a messy affair for the odds-on favourite.
However, bar a couple of small mistakes, he was good across his obstacles, particularly the second-last, and then found plenty to repel the challenge of Cask Mate, with third-placed N’Golo arguably most unsuited by the pace but showing what an engine he possesses by running on into third spot.
Said Elliott: “Jack said he was a bit novicey, as it was just his second run over hurdles, and said he still has a bit to learn with his jumping, but you’d have to take plenty of positives out of it.
“The one thing I liked about it was that he said that he was just doing what he has to do from the last home. It was hands and heels. He’s still a baby but he stays well, and he’s relaxed now - he was very keen in his bumpers.”
Elliott completed a four-timer when the heavily backed Grand Paradis took the bumper under Jamie Codd. A maiden hurdle next on the agenda for the grey who looks a smart stayer in the making.
Shark Hanlon and Bryan Cooper combined to take the opener with the game Mega Mindy.
Tom and David Mullins took the Porterstown - the most valuable race on the card - with Court Maid, who produced a brilliant display for one so inexperienced over fences.
Charles Byrnes and Kevin Brouder teamed up to take the two-mile handicap hurdle with Advanced Virgo who, despite jumping to his left on occasion, was well on top in the closing stages. The Ladbrokes Hurdle at Leopardstown, a race Byrnes has won for the last three seasons, could be in this fellow’s future.