Envoi Allen has looked a natural over fences to date – but one of racing’s potential superstars faces arguably the stiffest test of his career at Punchestown on Sunday.
Already a Grade One winner over the bigger obstacles at Fairyhouse, the unbeaten Gordon Elliott-trained seven-year-old must carry a penalty in the Grade Three Sky Bet Killiney Novice Chase.
And when Elliott picked out this contest as his lead into another trip to the Cheltenham Festival, he probably did not expect to be giving 11lb to a horse as good as Asterion Forlonge – himself a Grade One scorer over hurdles.
Trained by Willie Mullins for Gold Cup-winning owner Joe Donnelly, Asterion Forlonge was fourth in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and won on his chasing debut before coming down five from home in a Grade One won by stablemate Colreevy at Limerick.
Looking forward to an intriguing contest, County Meath trainer Elliott said: “He’s in great form at home, he’s well.
“It’s a big ask to give 11lb to a Grade One horse, but this has been my plan and I wasn’t going to change it.
“We could get beat a length and run a very, very good race. It is probably going to be his biggest ask, but I’m happy with the horse and we’ll take our chance.
“It’s a bit like last year, we went from Naas to Cheltenham, and I thought this was the right road to go.
“I said a month ago where I was going. If he gets beat it will be disappointing, but it won’t be the end of the world.”
For Chris Richardson, managing director of Cheveley Park Stud, victory would be poignant as only recently the stud’s joint-owner David Thompson died at the age of 84.
“A victory would mean a lot,” said Richardson
“You get nervous when he’s done what he’s done, and when you come up against a horse like Asterion Forlonge who is getting 11lb that is a task in itself.
“This is where Gordon has always wanted to go prior to Cheltenham, though. It’s looks the right race, there was no question of not running him and Gordon is very happy with him.
“He’s an extraordinary horse so you’ve got to go when the opportunity arises, you can’t dodge. He’s happy and it’s green for go.”
In the Sky Bet Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle, Elliott runs Magic Tricks, who is well on the way to matching up to his illustrious brother and stable companion.
Elliott said: “He’s a nice horse and I couldn’t believe he got beat in a bumper the first day.
“He was very good in Navan and I think he’s come on a bit from it.”