Envoi Allen predictably outclassed his rivals as he made a foot-perfect start to his career over fences at Down Royal.
Bought for £400,000 by Cheveley Park Stud, Gordon Elliott’s unbeaten six-year-old has so far lived up to his hefty price tag, with his eight previous wins under Rules including a pair of Cheltenham Festival triumphs in the Champion Bumper and the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.
Faced with just four rivals in the Advanced NI Scaffolding Beginners Chase – a race his trainer had won with the top-class pair of Delta Work and Samcro in the last two years – Envoi Allen was a prohibitively priced 1-14 favourite under Jack Kennedy.
After initially bouncing out in front when the tapes went up, Envoi Allen was then given a lead by rank outsider Soi Cowboy for much of the two-and-a-half-mile contest, before taking over again racing down the back straight.
Jumping accurately throughout, the six-year-old stamped his authority on the race from the home turn – safely negotiating the final two obstacles and quickening up smartly under hand driving to score by six lengths from January Jets.
Paddy Power trimmed his odds from 5-2 to 9-4 for the Marsh Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham next March, while Coral offer just 2-1.
Elliott said: “Brilliant! You loved the way he switched off and went by them, you just love his attitude. You couldn’t be happier.
“Jack (Kennedy) said he popped away and he quickened after the second-last. That’s what he was bought for, he’s a chaser and it’s nice to get that out of the way.
“He was good and coming out of Colin Bowe’s (where he won his point-to-point). he had plenty of work done (over fences).
“I imagine, all being well, he will go for the Drinmore at Fairyhouse.”
Elliott’s Farouk D’alene had earlier maintained his unbeaten record in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Maiden Hurdle.
The dual bumper winner was a 2-9 favourite to make a winning hurdling debut in a race his trainer had won four times in the last five years and came home eight lengths clear under Kennedy.
Elliott said: “He’s a big chaser – that’s what he has been bought to be. He’s a staying horse and you could hear him just have a blow after the last.
“He has never shown anything at home, but when you go to the track he is better. I’d say he couldn’t have the ground soft enough.”
The Cullentra handler completed a treble on the card with the Jamie Codd-ridden Chemical Energy (10-11 favourite) in the concluding bumper.
Skyace was a shock 66-1 winner of the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Novice Hurdle.
Bought for the bargain basement price of £600 by trainer Shark Hanlon, after being placed in three bumpers for Willie Mullins, the five-year-old won her first two starts for her new connections, but had struggled since.
She faced a huge step up in class for this Grade Three contest, but finished with a flourish under Jody McGarvey to get up and beat Elliott’s 6-5 favourite Queens Brook by a head.
Hanlon was not present due to being in isolation following a recent trip to the sales in Britain.
Speaking from his yard in County Carlow, the trainer said: “There were a couple of good mares in the race, but I honestly thought she’d finish in the first three.
“It’s topped off the year for me as it’s our 16th winner since the restart and I think we’ve had 20 seconds. I think we’ve only run around 30 horses, so it’s been unbelievable.
“We’ve no real plans for this mare, but she’s entitled to go for some of those Graded mares’ races now. I’d love to give her a break and bring her back for Punchestown. The boys are talking about Cheltenham, but whether she’s good enough, I don’t know.
“The owners are from Wexford, but they’re actually in Dubai. I’ve just spoken to them on the phone and I’d say there’ll be plenty of celebrating going on tonight over there!
“She’s a very good mare and I’m lucky to have her.”
Reflecting on her cheap purchase, Hanlon added: “I went over to the sales and the boys that own her told me they wanted a horse. I rang them and said there was a filly there who had been placed twice behind another good mare of mine, Dime A Dozen.
“They asked me how much I thought she’d make and I said she’d make around £15,000! They told me not to come home without her and we bought her for £600.
“She has never had a lame step with me since she landed here.”