Envoi Allen bids to put Cheltenham disappointment behind him when meeting Monkfish in a much-anticipated clash at Punchestown on Tuesday.
Already a dual Cheltenham Festival winner having won the Champion Bumper and the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, the Cheveley Park Stud-owned Envoi Allen was widely expected to complete the hat-trick on his return to the Cotswolds for the Marsh Novices’ Chase last month.
However, having barely put a foot wrong in three previous outings over fences, Envoi Allen fell at the fourth obstacle at Cheltenham on what his first start for trainer Henry de Bromhead after being moved from Gordon Elliott’s yard.
De Bromhead reports the seven-year-old in rude health ahead of his latest assignment in the Dooley Insurance Group Champion Novice Chase, but is wary of the threat posed by the Willie Mullins-trained Monkfish – winner of the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham.
He said: “I think we know him a bit better now. He seems much more settled, even schooling him the other morning. He seems really good and we’re happy with him.
“Of course you have to respect Monkfish – he’s been impressive all year. Perhaps Cheltenham was his least impressive (performance), but prior to that he’s been unreal.
“It looks a brilliant race, you want these top horses taking each other on.
“We haven’t done anything different, he had some physio and he’s schooled well since, I think we’ve done all we can.”
Monkfish was more solid than spectacular in extending his unbeaten record over fences to four at Prestbury Park, but is nevertheless the marginal favourite over Envoi Allen.
Mullins also runs Colreevy – who on the Mares’ Chase at Cheltenham – and Franco De Port.
“Monkfish didn’t jump with the same flair that he jumped (with previously) and he didn’t gallop with the same flair (at Cheltenham),” said the champion trainer.
“Colreevy has been covered by Walk In The Park and this will probably be her last run. The Flynns (owners) are out-and-out breeders and she is a fantastic looking mare and hopefully she’ll be lucky.
“From winning the Arkle at Christmas over two miles, I’m putting Franco De Port in over three miles and that will tell us where we are going next year.”
Mullins also possesses a strong hand in the first of three Grade Ones on the card, the eCOMM Merchant Solutions Champion Novice Hurdle.
With Supreme Novices’ Hurdle hero Appreciate It a notable absentee, the Closutton handler relies upon Blue Lord – who fell at the last when seemingly booked for second in the Supreme – and dual Grade Two-winning mare Echoes In Rain.
Mullins said: “Blue Lord was going to run a fantastic race at Cheltenham before he fell at the last. I think he will improve for the flatter track and the nicer ground we will have at Punchestown.
“Echoes In Rain is interesting. Her performance in Fairyhouse was very good and she is getting a nice fillies allowance, so we’ll see.”
Uhtred (Joseph O’Brien), Colonel Mustard (Lorna Fowler) and Dewcup (Ted Walsh) are the other hopefuls.
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