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Allaho leads charge for Mullins

Allaho leads a four-strong team for Willie Mullins in the rescheduled Horse & Jockey Hotel Chase at Thurles.

The Cheveley Park Stud-owned seven-year-old has already been placed twice at the Cheltenham Festival, having finished third in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle and the RSA Novices’ Chase, and is this year being targeted at the Ryanair Chase.

He will be a hot favourite for Wednesday’s Grade Two feature, which was originally due to be run last Sunday before the meeting was cancelled because of snow.

However, he lines up with something to prove – having failed to run up to expectations in both the John Durkan at Punchestown and Savills Chase at Leopardstown so far this season.

Chris Richardson, Cheveley Park’s managing director, said last week: “He’s a horse who has been difficult to get fit this season, and I’m hopeful we’ll see an improvement.

“Hopefully it will set him up for perhaps the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham.

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“He’s in good form, so let’s keep fingers crossed.”

Mullins also saddles Easy Game, Annamix and high-class mare Elimay – while Gordon Elliott, who landed back-to-back renewals of the race with his Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Don Cossack in 2015 and 2016, relies on Battleoverdoyen.

The eight-year-old was an impressive winner of a Grade Two at Down Royal on his first start of the campaign, before finishing fourth in the John Durkan last month.

Elliott told Betfair: “We didn’t see the best of him in the Durkan Chase at Punchestown last time when he was a well-held fourth behind Min, and he seemed to be struggling a long way from home in that race.

“He is much better than he showed there, so I’m hoping for better, even though he has to shoulder a Grade One penalty.

“The ground may not be quite as testing as it was in Punchestown, and that could help – while at home he has been in good form for the last few weeks. I’m hoping to see him return to the promise he showed when winning a Grade Two in good style at Down Royal.”

Henry de Bromhead’s Balko Des Flos and Roy Tector’s outsider Turndownthevolume complete the line-up.

Grade Two honours are also up for grabs in the Coolmore N.H. Sires Kew Gardens Irish EBF Mares Novice Chase – a race Mullins won for the fourth time in the last six years with Elimay 12 months ago.

The Closutton handler again has a strong hand, with Limerick Grade One winner Colreevy joined by stable companion Yukon Lil.

Elliott is represented by Mount Ida, who finished third behind Yukon Lil on her chasing debut before landing a Grade Three prize at Cork in early December.

“She has made a bright start over fences,” Elliott added.

“I thought her chasing debut was encouraging, and she built on that to win a Grade Three at Cork early last month.

“There weren’t that many options for her over longer trips earlier in the season, which is why she campaigned over two miles, but I think this sort of distance could be ideal for her

“She is penalised for her Grade Three success, which won’t make life easy. But she is in good heart, and it might just help her that she has had a good interval since she last ran.

“If she runs her race I’d hope that she will be right there at the finish.”

The Joseph O’Brien-trained Scarlet And Dove and Declan Queally’s Western Victory also feature in a nine-strong field.

‘Next stop Cheltenham’ as Envoi Allen marches on

All roads lead back to the Cheltenham Festival for Envoi Allen following his latest demolition job at Punchestown.

Already a dual winner at the showpiece meeting, having won the Champion Bumper and the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle in the past two seasons, the Cheveley Park Stud-owned gelding is this year bound for the Marsh Novices’ Chase – for which he is odds-on with most bookmakers.

Gordon Elliott’s charge appeared to face his toughest test over fences to date in conceding 11lb to Grade One-winning hurdler Asterion Forlonge earlier this month.

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However, the latter crashed out at the very first fence, leaving Envoi Allen clear to extend his unbeaten record under rules to 11 with the minimum of fuss.

Chris Richardson, Cheveley Park’s managing director, said: “It was a shame that the horse was never able to have a proper race, which is what we really wanted to do, rather than what ended up being a piece of work really.

“It was a bit of anti-climax in the end. We were hoping we’d have a bit of a race on our hands, but sadly it didn’t happen.

“He came out of the race fine and bouncing – he was having a ball in his field the next day, having a roll in the mud.

“He’s a very intelligent horse – he knows exactly what he’s up to – and we’re lucky to have him.

“Cheltenham is the next stop.”

Envoi Allen and Davy Russell return after winning the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham last year
Envoi Allen and Davy Russell return after winning the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham last year (Andrew Matthews/PA)

More renowned for success on the Flat, Cheveley Park Stud has become a formidable force in the National Hunt sphere in the last couple of years.

Envoi Allen is one of several leading hopes for the team at this year’s Festival, along with the likes of Cheltenham Gold Cup hope A Plus Tard and Champion Bumper favourite Sir Gerhard.

However, Richardson admits he will have mixed emotions watching the horses in action following the recent death of David Thompson, joint-owner of Cheveley Park along with his wife Patricia.

“The Flat is very much more my scene, but it’s been fantastic to be involved with the National Hunt horses,” he added.

“It’s obviously sad the boss isn’t here to watch the horses that he loved so much, and enjoy the new adventure he embarked upon.

“Let’s hope that they continue to do him proud.”

Allaho seeks to restate Festival credentials at Thurles

Allaho bids to get his season up and running as one of four runners for Willie Mullins in the Horse & Jockey Hotel Chase at Thurles.

Twice placed at the Cheltenham Festival, having finished third in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle and the RSA Novices’ Chase, the seven-year-old has failed to run up to expectations in his two previous starts this winter.

Allaho was sixth of seven runners when a leading contender for the John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase on his reappearance – and was again well-beaten when fourth behind fellow Cheveley Park Stud-owned star A Plus Tard in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown.

He drops in distance and class for Sunday’s Grade Two feature in County Tipperary, on a card which must pass an 8am inspection – with snow and ice in the forecast.

Should the meeting go ahead, hopes are high that French import Allaho can show his true colours before a likely return to Cheltenham in March.

Chris Richardson, Cheveley Park’s managing director, said: “He’s a horse who has been difficult to get fit this season, and I’m hopeful we’ll see an improvement this weekend.

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“Hopefully it will set him up for perhaps the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham.

“He’s in good form, so let’s keep fingers crossed.”

Mullins also saddles Easy Game, Annamix and high-class mare Elimay – while Gordon Elliott, who landed back-to-back renewals of the race with his Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Don Cossack in 2015 and 2016, relies on Battleoverdoyen.

The eight-year-old was an impressive winner of a Grade Two at Down Royal on his first start of the campaign, before finishing fourth in the John Durkan last month.

Elliott told Betfair: “We didn’t see the best of him in the Durkan Chase at Punchestown last time when he was a well-held fourth behind Min and he seemed to be struggling a long way from home in that race.

“He is much better than he showed there so I’m hoping for better, even though he has to shoulder a Grade One penalty.

“The ground may not be quite as testing as it was in Punchestown and that could help, while at home he has been in good form for the last few weeks. I’m hoping to see him return to the promise he showed when winning a Grade Two in good style at Down Royal.”

Henry de Bromhead’s Balko Des Flos and Roy Tector’s outsider Turndownthevolume complete the line-up.

Grade Two honours are also up for grabs in the Coolmore N.H. Sires Kew Gardens Irish EBF Mares Novice Chase – a race Mullins won for the fourth time in the last six years with Elimay 12 months ago.

The Closutton handler again has a strong hand, with Limerick Grade One winner Colreevy joined by stable companion Yukon Lil.

Elliott is represented by Mount Ida, who finished third behind Yukon Lil on her chasing debut before landing a Grade Three prize at Cork in early December.

Elliott added: “She has made a bright start over fences. I thought her chasing debut was encouraging, and she built on that to win a Grade Three at Cork early last month.

“There weren’t that many options for her over longer trips earlier in the season, which is why she campaigned over two miles, but I think this sort of distance could be ideal for her

“She is penalised for her Grade Three success, which won’t make life easy. But she is in good heart, and it might just help her that she has had a good interval since she last ran.

“If she runs her race I’d hope that she will be right there at the finish.”

The Joseph O’Brien-trained Scarlet And Dove and Declan Queally’s Western Victory also feature in a 10-strong field.

A Plus Tard set to head straight to Cheltenham

Savills Chase winner A Plus Tard is likely to sidestep the Dublin Racing Festival and head straight to the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Connections are keen to give the seven-year-old as long as possible to get over his exertions from the Christmas feature at Leopardstown, in which he proved his stamina for three miles with a relentless finish to overhaul Kemboy and Melon.

While he would have another two furlongs to tackle at Cheltenham, the manner of his victory, in coming from well off the pace, has given his team hope Henry de Bromhead’s charge will be a genuine player in the blue riband come March.

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“A Plus Tard was very impressive. It was obviously a step into the unknown, but it has opened up so many more options and one is clearly the Gold Cup,” said Chris Richardson, managing director of owners Cheveley Park Stud.

“He likes to run left-handed and he likes to run fresh and we’re very fortunate to have a selection of special horses.

“He was eyecatching in that performance. It was a bit of a punt to see if he stayed, but occasionally you have got to roll the dice and it worked out a treat. He’s very exciting and a serious star in his own right.

“I don’t think he’ll run at the Dublin Racing Festival, I think he’ll go straight to Cheltenham for the Gold Cup, as he runs so well fresh. So I think we’ll just go there.

“He had a hard race the other day and it wasn’t easy, it was a pure test so we don’t want to rush him back, we’ll be patient and go for the Festival, all being well.”

One Cheveley Park-owned star who will not be at Cheltenham is Ferny Hollow, but Richardson has not given up hope the Champion Bumper winner will run again this season – especially given the horse he beat on his hurdles debut has subsequently won a Grade One.

“Obviously Ferny Hollow’s form was franked by Bob Olinger the other day and it’s frustrating he won’t be there,” said Richardson.

“He might make Punchestown, that is the hope, but I wouldn’t want to tempt fate. That is what we would like to think.”

Envoi Allen the star name among Punchestown possibles

Envoi Allen could be the star attraction at Punchestown on Sunday after appearing among 11 entries for the Sky Bet Killiney Novice Chase.

The Cheveley Park Stud-owned seven-year-old is arguably the most exciting National Hunt horse in training, having won each of his 10 starts to date, including a pair of victories at the Cheltenham Festival in the Champion Bumper and the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.

Gordon Elliott’s charge has made a smooth transition to fences this season, most recently producing a foot-perfect display in the Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse – and having sidestepped the Christmas action, he is set to return in this weekend’s Grade Three contest.

Elliott has back-up in Andy Dufresne and Conflated, while the Willie Mullins-trained Asterion Forlonge could bid to bounce back from a fall in the Grade One Faugheen Novice Chase at Limerick three weeks ago.

Caspian Caviar Gold Cup winner Chatham Street Lad would be a fascinating contender for Mick Winters, although he is expected to run in the Dan & Joan Moore Memorial Chase at Fairyhouse the previous afternoon.

Joseph O’Brien’s pair of Fils D’oudairies and Sempo also feature, along with Dinny Lacey (James Motherway), I’m A Game Changer (Andrew McNamara), Punitive (Henry de Bromhead) and Rebel Gold (Tom Foley).

Grade Two honours are up for grabs in the Sky Bet Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle.

Willie Mullins has saddled a record seven previous winners of the race, with Mikael D’Haguenet (2009), Vautour (2015), Douvan (2015) and Min (2016) among the Closutton stars to have claimed victory.

This year Mullins has three contenders in Echoes In Rain, Ganapathi and course-and-distance winner Power Of Pause.

Gordon Elliott has landed the last two renewals with Felix Desjy and the aforementioned Andy Dufresne. The master of Cullentra could chase the hat-trick with either or both of Joseph Conrad and Magic Tricks.

Other hopefuls include the prolific Dreal Deal from Ronan McNally’s yard, Henry de Bromhead’s Gua Du Large and Paddy Corkery’s Master McShee, who was last seen impressing in handicap company at Leopardstown.

Death announced of Cheveley Park joint-owner David Thompson, aged 84

David Thompson, joint-owner of Cheveley Park Stud, has died, aged 84.

Along with wife Patricia, Thompson purchased Newmarket’s oldest stud farm in 1975 and the pair have enjoyed huge success both on and off the track.

Big-race winners in the easily identifiable red, white and blue colours include the brilliant sprinter Pivotal, who now stands at Cheveley Park as a stallion, the top-class Medicean, multiple Group One-winning mare Russian Rhythm and Breeders’ Cup heroine Queen’s Trust.

Envoi Allen is a jumping superstar in the Cheveley Park colours
Envoi Allen is a jumping superstar in the Cheveley Park colours (PA)

In 1992 Thompson purchased Party Politics as a present for his wife, just two days before he won the Grand National.

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In recent years, the Thompsons have reignited their interested in National Hunt racing, with the Cheveley Park silks carried to Cheltenham Festival glory by A Plus Tard, Ferny Hollow and the unbeaten Envoi Allen.

A Plus Tard provided Cheveley Park with their latest top-level success when securing a thrilling victory in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown last Monday, setting himself up for a tilt at the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

A statement released by the family on Monday confirmed Thompson died of renal failure the day after A Plus Tard’s victory.

Cheveley Park’s managing director Chris Richardson said: “David Thompson was a very generous, meticulous, sometimes unpredictable man, who always had a certain charm.

“He inspired everyone with his insatiable enthusiasm for business which, thankfully, included a love of racing and breeding, alongside his wife, Patricia and their family. He had tremendous foresight and would often ask a question, knowing full well the answer.

“I always tried to be prepared, as one never knew when the thrill and challenge of another equine adventure would catch his imagination. His latest venture into National Hunt racing proved a huge success and gave him so much pleasure.

“DBT’s recent visit to the Cheltenham Sale held in Newmarket, and to the stud, gave him and all here so much joy. He certainly enriched the lives of all those he met and who knew him. He will be much missed.”

Russian Rhythm on her way to winning the 1000 Guineas
Russian Rhythm on her way to winning the 1000 Guineas (Andrew Parsons/PA)

David and Patricia Thompson were recognised for their philanthropic work last year by each being awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.

The Thompson Family Charitable Trust has become one of the largest charitable foundations in the United Kingdom, having already donated over £70million to a wide variety of medical, educational, social, artistic and other charities, whilst maintaining an endowment for future donations of more than £100million.

As well as his wife, Thompson is survived by three children, Richard, Rosalind and Katie, and seven grandchildren.

Gold Cup looms large after A Plus Tard’s Savills win

A Plus Tard’s connections are giving the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup serious consideration after his dramatic victory in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown.

The six-year-old was only third jumping the final fence on Monday, but then produced a late burst to collar Kemboy and Melon close home.

That was just the second time Henry de Bromhead’s chaser had tackled three miles over fences – having been put in his place by Delta Work as a novice over slightly further in April last year, albeit racing right-handed at Punchestown.

He has not raced that way round since, and De Bromhead is on record suggesting he will not be tempted to ask him to do so again.

The Gold Cup is over a further two and a half furlongs than A Plus Tard’s Leopardstown win, but it is likely to be the objective after he prevailed through stamina in the Savills Chase.

“It was fantastic and a great ride by the young lad (Darragh O’Keeffe),” said Chris Richardson, managing director of owners Cheveley Park Stud.

“It has given us so many more options now to be able to step up in trip. It was very exciting.

“I thought he was going to be third, and we’d have been happy with that.”

Further discussions are therefore now on the agenda.

“Obviously we will talk to Mr (David) Thompson (Cheveley Park owner) and see what he wants to do – but the Gold Cup would be favourite at this point, I would think,” added Richardson.

“We haven’t spoken about it yet. Now we know he stays three miles, that gives so many more options.

“I’d expect him to have one more run before Cheltenham – but that was very special.”

Cheveley Park Stud's Allaho also ran a fine race for Willie Mullins
Cheveley Park Stud’s Allaho also ran a fine race for Willie Mullins (Brian Lawless/PA)

Cheveley Park also had Allaho in the Grade One, and the Willie Mullins-trained gelding was not disgraced in fourth place.

“Allaho ran OK too. He has just taken a while to get fit this year,” said Richardson.

“Willie is telling me he’s just not quite there yet, but we can build on that.”

Sir Gerhard likely to follow Envoi Allen route to Cheltenham

The Dublin Racing Festival is the likely next port of call for Champion Bumper favourite Sir Gerhard.

A £400,000 purchase for Cheveley Park Stud after winning his only start in the point-to-point field, the five-year-old made the perfect start for his new connections when scoring by 14 lengths on his bumper debut at Down Royal in late October.

Gordon Elliott’s charge strengthened his position as ante-post favourite for the Festival in March with an impressive display in a Listed event at Navan on Friday, and an outing at Leopardstown is next on his agenda.

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Chris Richardson, managing director of owners Cheveley Park Stud, said: “He showed plenty of ability (at Navan) and we were very excited.

“Envoi Allen won the Listed race Navan before going to Leopardstown and then Cheltenham and I think we’ll probably follow the same route.”

The leading owners have plenty of high-profile horses entered over the upcoming festive period, headed by the brilliant and unbeaten Envoi Allen, who has options at Leopardstown and Limerick.

Elliott suggested he was likely to sidestep Christmas following his latest triumph in the Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse, but running plans have not yet been finalised.

Richardson said: “I haven’t really had a chance to discuss plans with the Thompsons (owners) or Gordon yet, so we’ll see.

“We’re in a fortunate position to be a bit spoilt choice and we’re just having to decide what goes where. That will unravel as we go through the next week.”

Envoi Allen has been faultless to date
Envoi Allen has been faultless to date (PA)

Ballyadam could carry the famous Cheveley Park colours in the Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown on December 27.

Allaho appears unlikely to run in either the King George at Kempton or the Savills Chase at Leopardstown after disappointing on his seasonal reappearance in the John Durkan at Punchestown, but A Plus Tard looks set to tackle three miles for the first time in the Leopardstown race.

Richardson added: “The Royal Bond was the plan for Ballyadam, which he won nicely, and obviously the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham (is a target), but where we go before then I’m not quite sure yet.

“On the basis of Allaho’s last performance we’re probably going to have a bit of a regroup. He’s certainly not going to come to England for the King George and I think Willie (Mulins) will look for something closer to home.

“I think the trick with A Plus Tard is he likes to go left-handed. It looks like he’s going to step up to three miles and it might give us a few more options going forward.”

Ferny Hollow set to miss Cheltenham with suspected stress fracture

Last season’s Champion Bumper hero Ferny Hollow is set to miss the Cheltenham Festival due to injury.

The Cheveley Park Stud-owned gelding stormed up the famous hill to provide trainer Willie Mullins with a 10th Champion Bumper success in March and made a fine start to his career over hurdles when seeing off subsequent winner Bob Olinger at Gowran Park last month.

However, the five-year-old was not entered to run over the Christmas period and connections have now confirmed he will miss much of the current campaign, if not all.

Chris Richardson, managing director of owners Cheveley Park Stud, said: “It’s really frustrating. We’re still not really sure what the problem is, but it looks like a stress fracture behind.

“We’re sort of investigating as we go forward. Willie said he’s not right and obviously I’m not able to go over and see him because we’re all stuck where we are.

“It’s a shame. He’ll probably miss Cheltenham and we’ll hopefully know more in a couple of weeks’ time on whether we might get him back for Punchestown when we X-ray him again.

“We’re lucky that we’ve got a few of these other horses that have been running so well, but we were really looking forward to him.”

Mullins remains hopeful Ferny Hollow might return to action before the end of the season.

Speaking after saddling a winner at Thurles on Sunday, the champion trainer said: “It looks like he has a stress fracture – he was lame after his last run and didn’t recover.

“We can’t find anything wrong, he is lame behind. We can’t find it on an X-ray and that usually means there is some little fracture there.

“Those things will recover 100 per cent – it is disappointing, but it could be a lot worse than that.

“Punchestown is a possibility as usually they need four to six weeks depending on how they recover and the horse will tell us that more than anything else.”

Ferny Hollow ruled out of Cheltenham

Last season’s Champion Bumper hero Ferny Hollow has been ruled out of the Cheltenham Festival due to injury.

The Cheveley Park Stud-owned gelding stormed up the famous hill to provide trainer Willie Mullins with a 10th Champion Bumper success in March and made a fine start to his career over hurdles when seeing off subsequent winner Bob Olinger at Gowran Park last month.

However, the five-year-old was not entered to run over the Christmas period and connections have now confirmed he will miss much of the current campaign, if not all.

Chris Richardson, managing director of owners Cheveley Park Stud, told RacingTV.com: “Ferny Hollow has a suspected stress fracture behind. Although nothing is immediately visible on his X-rays, that is often the case with a stress fracture and so we are treating it as such.

“Sadly, he will miss the Cheltenham Festival. We hope he might be able to make it back for Punchestown, but we will have to see.

“It’s very frustrating but he’s very special, so we’re being conservative with him.”

Envoi Allen primed for next step on path to superstardom

Connections of Envoi Allen are excited and nervous in almost equal measure as he prepares for the Baroneracing.com Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse.

Gordon Elliott’s six-year-old already has two Cheltenham Festival victories to his credit in an unbeaten nine-race streak – and will seek to further his outstanding record in the Grade One feature on Sunday.

He handled the transition to fences with aplomb at Down Royal and is seemingly on the way to superstardom – but that does not make make watching him any easier for those connected.

“He’s a pretty special individual and barely put a foot wrong – if he did put a foot wrong – at Down Royal,” said Chris Richardson, managing director of owners Cheveley Park Stud.

“He’s the ultimate professional, a very intelligent horse and is a joy to be involved with. We’re fortunate to have him and he’s giving Mr and Mrs Thompson a huge amount of pleasure.

“The Drinmore at Fairyhouse is next and hopefully he can continue in his current vein.”

He added: “He takes everything in his stride, he’s perfectly balanced, he’s a horse who just knows what he’s got to do.

“It’s all a bit nerve-wracking really, you are up on a pedestal waiting to be knocked off, but at the moment we’ll enjoy it. The longer this unbeaten run goes the harder his first defeat will be to stomach I imagine!

“It’s just frustrating we can’t go at the moment, it’s a great shame but that’s the way it is – thankfully racing is on and we can watch on TV.”

Ferny Hollow poised for jumping bow at Gowran Park

Weatherbys Champion Bumper hero Ferny Hollow makes his eagerly-awaited hurdling debut at Gowran Park on Friday.

Willie Mullins has picked the I.N.H. Stallion Owners EBF Maiden Hurdle as the starting point for one of the most exciting recruits to obstacles this season.

Owned by Cheveley Park Stud, he is one of their small but very select band of National Hunt horses that also includes the likes of Envoi Allen, Ballyadam and Allaho.

Having met with defeat in his first two bumpers last season, it was not until Mullins fitted Ferny Hollow with a hood he showed his true potential, cruising to victory at Fairyhouse before coming from almost last to first at Cheltenham.

“He’s summered really well and Willie seems very happy with him,” said Chris Richardson, managing director of the stud.

“He’s one of a select few we have that continue to show up very well for us and hopefully he can continue to progress as we go forward.

“He took a little bit of educating last season, in his first two races he was doing everything too quick and he was a bit too free. Hopefully whatever he does we’ll be able to build on for the future, but he’s certainly been pleasing his trainer.

“Sometimes, with horses like him who have been a bit buzzy, it helps getting them over obstacles – it gives them something else to concentrate on.”

Ferny Hollow faces far from a penalty kick, however, with Henry de Bromhead’s Bob Olinger also an exciting recruit, winning on his only start under rules so far, a bumper at Gowran, by 10 lengths.

Regarding the potential of his runner, De Bromhead said last week: “He’s lovely, he’s really good. He worked well the other day.”