It will be a key day for Gordon Elliott on Friday as he sends both Envoi Allen and Abacadabras into action at Down Royal.
Elliott is a high-profile presence at the two-day meeting, dominating affairs on an annual basis – with Willie Mullins tending to wait a couple of weeks longer before unleashing his big guns.
Abacadabras is set to go off at a short price in the WKD Hurdle, having just been touched off by Nicky Henderson’s Shishkin at Cheltenham in March in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
“He’s a nice horse who hasn’t done much wrong in his career,” said Elliott.
“He was probably unlucky in the Supreme. Nicky’s horse was very good, but we probably ended up getting there (the front) too soon.
“I think our horse has improved. He’s not a horse that you’d work that much, because he’s hard enough on himself on the gallop.
“It will be a good race in Down Royal. We’re going to have to improve, and if we improve we’ve got a good chance.”
The Henry de Bromhead pair of Aspire Tower and Jason The Militant are expected to give him most to do.
Just over an hour later Elliott will give Jack Kennedy the leg up on Envoi Allen for his debut over fences under rules in the Advance NI Scaffolding Beginners Chase.
Unbeaten in eight career starts, Envoi Allen is already a dual Cheltenham Festival winner – but this will be the first time Kennedy has ridden him in a race, with Davy Russell sidelined by injury.
“He’s just a very laid-back horse who I’m lucky to have,” said Elliott.
“If you watched him in Cheltenham last season, for two or three strides after the back of the last I thought ‘we’re in trouble here’, but he just picks up and is always there when you want him.
“He’s schooled well. The ground has been good enough, so we haven’t done an awful lot of schooling with him, but he came from Colin Bowe’s and will have done an awful lot of schooling as a young horse – it’s just a case of getting his eye back in and refreshing him.
“There’s a lot of water to go under the bridge between now and Cheltenham next March, and he probably is going to get beat some day – hopefully not.”
In the Grade Three Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Novice Hurdle, Champion Bumper third Queens Brook bids to add to a Fairyhouse success on her hurdling debut – when she had to work harder than expected.
“She got tired in Fairyhouse – but as we said before the race, she was only three-quarters fit, if even that,” said Elliott
“I think two and a half miles will suit her better in time, and even a bit softer ground, but this race is there for her to run in.”
Lorna Fowler’s Politesse, De Bromhead’s Brave Way and John McConnell’s Anna Bunina will give her something to think about.