Envoi Allen puts unbeaten record on line at Punchestown

Envoi Allen will face five rivals when he attempts to stretch his unbeaten career record under rules to 11 in the Sky Bet Killiney Novice Chase at Punchestown.

Having landed his point-to-point in February 2018, the Gordon Elliott-trained gelding has carried all before him – twice winning at the Cheltenham Festival, including last year’s Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.

Owned by Cheveley Park Stud, the seven-year-old has embarked on a novice-chasing campaign this season and has been faultless in two victories to date, at Down Royal and most recently in Grade One company at Fairyhouse.

However, Sunday’s two-and-a-half-mile Grade Three promises to present his biggest test yet over the larger obstacles, because he must give 11lb all round to some smart performers – chief among them Asterion Forlonge.

Trained by Willie Mullins, the seven-year-old – who runs in the colours of Gold Cup-winning owner Joe Donnelly – was fourth to Shishkin in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and got off to a winning start over fences at this track in November, before falling in Limerick’s Grade One Faugheen Novice Chase over Christmas.

Joseph O’Brien supplies two further rivals in Navan winner Fils D’oudairies and Sempo – while Henry de Bromhead’s Punitive and Dinny Lacey, from James Motherway’s yard, complete the intended line-up.

Envoi Allen all set for Punchestown

Gordon Elliott has confirmed Envoi Allen an intended runner in the Sky Bet Killiney Novice Chase at Punchestown.

The Cheveley Park Stud-owned seven-year-old already has two Cheltenham Festival victories on his CV, having won the Champion Bumper and the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, and he is the even-money favourite to make it a hat-trick in the Marsh Novices’ Chase in March.

He will be widely expected to make it three from three over fences by extending his unbeaten record under Rules to 11 overall in Sunday’s two-and-a-half-mile Grade Three, where his potential rivals include his high-class stable companion Andy Dufresne.

Elliott said: “Envoi Allen runs at Punchestown on Sunday. He’s in good form and worked yesterday (Tuesday) morning. I’m looking forward to running him.

“He has plenty of weight to give away, but we said that’s where we’ll go. It’s a nice distance for him and it looks like the ground will be grand and safe.

“I’m not sure if Andy Dufresne will run. He’s in good form – but whether we will run the two of them against each other, I’m not sure. We’ll have to talk to the owners and see what happens.”

On the same Punchestown card, Elliott plans to run Magic Tricks in the Sky Bet Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle, a Grade Two contest he has won in each of the past two seasons with Felix Desjy and Andy Dufresne respectively.

At Fairyhouse on Saturday, the Cullentra handler has several entries for the Dan And Joan Moore Memorial Chase – while the exciting Quilixios could put his unbeaten record on the line in the ITM Virtual Stallion Trail Hurdle.

Elliott added: “Magic Tricks will run in the Moscow Flyer. He won well in Navan, and Christmas was always going to come a bit quick after that so we had this race in mind for him. It’s been a lucky race for us the last few years.

“I’ll run four or five in the Dan Moore at Fairyhouse. Chosen Mate was disappointing the last day, and maybe he struggles on heavy ground – he could be a horse for the Grand Annual again.

“I’m not sure if we will run Quilixios at Fairyhouse or keep him for Leopardstown next month. We’ll run something in the race.”

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.

Elliott confirms Envoi Allen will swerve Christmas and wait for Punchestown in January

Gordon Elliott is looking forward to saddling several of his stable stars over the busy Christmas period – but Envoi Allen will not be one of them.

The Cheveley Park Stud-owned six-year-old is arguably the most exciting National Hunt horse in training, having won each of his 10 starts to date, most recently producing a foot-perfect display in the Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse.

Envoi Allen holds upcoming entries at Leopardstown and Limerick, but is instead set to head for Punchestown in mid-January.

“Envoi Allen is one horse who won’t be in action over Christmas,” Elliott told Betfair.

“We’ve made the decision to head to Punchestown on January 17 for a Grade Three novice chase over two and a half miles and it looks a very suitable race for him before we prepare him for the major spring festivals.”

The first Grade One of the Christmas Festival at Leopardstown is the Racing Post Novice Chase on December 26, in which Elliott plans to saddle Felix Desjy.

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The Cullentra handler has three contenders for the Grade Two Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle on the same card in impressive Fairyhouse scorer Zanahiyr, Quilixios and Duffle Coat.

Zanahiyr looked every inch a top-class prospect at Fairyhouse
Zanahiyr looked every inch a top-class prospect at Fairyhouse (PA)

The trainer had raised the possibility of instead sending the latter pair for the Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow on Sunday, although that will now not be possible in light of the latest travel restrictions put in place between Ireland and Britain.

Elliott said of Zanahiyr: “He could well run in the Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle. He’s in great shape and came out of his last run very well, so we’re keen to let him take his chance.”

Elliott confirmed his Royal Bond winner Ballyadam will bid to double his top-level tally in Leopardstown’s Future Champions Novice Hurdle on December 27.

The following afternoon he is set to be triple-handed in both the Leopardstown Christmas Hurdle and the Savills Chase.

Delta Work (right) is heading back to Leopardstown
Delta Work (right) is heading back to Leopardstown (PA)

“I’d say we could run Fury Road, Sire Du Berlais and The Storyteller in the Christmas Hurdle. Fury Road does like some ease in the ground, so we will keep an eye on the ground at Leopardstown,” Elliott added.

“The Savills Chase is going to be one of the races of the season and I’d like to think we are fielding three strong candidates in Delta Work, Presenting Percy and Samcro.”

Elliott is favouring the Matchbook Betting Exchange Faugheen Novice Chase at Limerick on December 26 for the exciting Pencilfulloflead, leaving the way clear for his stablemate Conflated to line up for the Neville Hotels Novice Chase at Leopardstown on December 29.

Abacadabras and Petit Mouchoir, a relatively new recruit to the yard, are set to take their chance in the Matheson Hurdle on the final day at Leopardstown.

Elliott said: “The four days after Christmas are always hugely important for us and, while this year will be very different in so many ways, it will be business as usual in terms of runners.

“Over the four days of Leopardstown and Limerick we will be pretty busy and hopefully we can emerge from those festivals with a reasonable haul of winners and I’d like to think we have some strong contenders for some of the big races over the next week.

“Leopardstown at Christmas is both an important and special meeting, but it won’t be same without anybody there this year. It will feel strange as there is always a great buzz around the place which won’t be there unfortunately.

“One thing that will stay the same is the quality of action on the track and we’re running plenty of our big names, so it’s going to be an exciting few days.”

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.”

Envoi Allen in cruise control for perfect 10 in Drinmore

Envoi Allen cruised to victory and stretched his unbeaten record under Rules to 10 with a faultless performance in the BARONERACING.COM Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse.

Gordon Elliott’s superstar, already a dual winner at the Cheltenham Festival at the tender age of six, did not appear to put a foot wrong in the Grade One, jumping like an old handicapper in the hands of Jack Kennedy.

Only three were brave enough to take him on, with one of those his stablemate Coko Beach and the other two both trained by Joseph O’Brien.

Kennedy kept it simple and set out to make all – and everything went according to plan.

Rachael Blackmore and Assemble put it up to Envoi Allen approaching the second last – but if anything the scent of competition spurred the 2-11 favourite on, and he attacked the last two fences with vigour.

He popped the last on his way to an eight-and-a-half length success to build on his already sky-high reputation.

Betfair make him their 15-8 favourite for the Marsh Chase at Cheltenham in March.

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“A clear round is all you want, and Jack said he was foot perfect the whole way,” said Elliott.

“The second last can be tricky here, so he let him back on his hocks – and once he gave him a squeeze after that, it was all over.

“The one thing he did say is he’s having a good blow, so there’s plenty of improvement in him. He had to be fit coming here today, but there’s a lot of improvement in him.

“It’s nervous watching him. I watched with Noel Meade, like I do most races, but I was plenty nervous today.

“We didn’t think there’d be much pace, so it made sense to keep it simple. When he gets in a real race you’ll see the real horse – that will be Cheltenham.”

En route, Envoi Allen may take a brief mid-winter break.

Elliott added: “We might miss Christmas – we’re thinking about a race at Punchestown, a Grade Two in January, and then on to the Marsh. He has the pace for two miles, but we’ll keep him to his own division.

“Three miles wouldn’t be a problem, nor would two. He won the Royal Bond last year, but the Marsh will be his race.

“He’s getting stronger but also more laid-back. He’s very relaxed, hence the reason there might be more to come.

“Jack has had a few nasty knocks, but all the horses are here for him to ride. Obviously Davy Russell is out injured, and this is his ride, but Keith Donoghue rides him every day.

“No one else rides him – if something happened to Jack he’d be riding him.”

Envoi Allen with jockey Jack Kennedy after winning the Drinmore Novice Chase
Envoi Allen with jockey Jack Kennedy after winning the Drinmore Novice Chase (PA Wire)

Kennedy was exhilarated as he reflected on Envoi Allen’s performance.

“He didn’t put a foot wrong again,” he said.

“He jumped great, and we only hacked around in front. When I asked him to go after the second last he fairly picked up and went down and pinged the last.

“Whether you’re long or short, it doesn’t matter on him. The way he picked up away from the second last is brilliant.

“He takes everything in his stride, and it doesn’t matter to him having to go and do the donkey work in front. He had a good blow today as well, and will come on plenty for that.

“That distance is probably best for him now. There is no point in getting the mileage up on him yet, because he’s still a young horse. Gordon knows exactly what to do, so we’ll leave it to him.”

Envoi Allen aiming to extend unbeaten run with Drinmore success

All eyes will be on Envoi Allen as the exciting prospect bids to confirm the impression of his impressive fencing debut in the Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse on Sunday.

The Cheveley Park-owned six-year-old, trained by Gordon Elliott, lived up to his billing when successful at Down Royal last month, adding to his unbeaten tally under all codes.

Envoi Allen now steps into Grade One company over fences with connections only too aware of the pressure that goes with having a horse of such great potential.

“He’s unbeaten, he’s exciting and he’s in great form,” said Chris Richardson, managing director of owners Cheveley Park Stud.

“In his last race he was so professional. He didn’t put a foot wrong.

“There’s nothing you can say about him at the moment except it gets a bit nerve-wracking on the basis that he keeps pulling out all the stops every time.

“He’s a most special horse.”

Elliott echoed those comments, telling Betfair: “With a horse like him, it’s always a great thrill every time they run. I suppose there’s always a bit of extra pressure with the likes of him, but at the same time I wouldn’t swap that feeling for anything.

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“When he was bought after winning his point-to-point, he was bought with a view to being a top-class chaser and that dream is still alive after his debut over fences at Down Royal last month. He never came off the bridle, which was nice to see, and I was also pleased to see the runner-up from that race go on and run well in a decent race at Naas last weekend. 

“From a form perspective I doubt anyone learnt anything about Down Royal, but his chasing technique was efficient and good and that is what you love to see from a horse having their first run over fences. 

“It was always the plan to come from Down Royal to Fairyhouse and he has been very well at home since making his comeback. He seems to be the same Envoi Allen as always and he’s just one of those horses that just takes everything in their stride and makes everything look easy. 

“The Drinmore will represent another step up the ladder in terms of his chasing career and, while it is a small field, I’m taking nothing for granted, but hopefully he will do what he has always done from day one. We’ve just very lucky to have one like him in the yard.”

Elliott feels Coko Beach deserves his chance, but has it all to do against his stablemate.

“I was very pleased with his first run over fences at Galway last month when he finished a good second to Pencilfulloflead, and that form already looks good with the winner having gone on to win a Grade Two,” said the County Meath handler.

“That run entitles him to take up his engagement here, but I would say he has his work cut out against Envoi Allen.”

Joseph O’Brien provides the only the opposition to the Elliott pair with Assemble and Home By The Lee, who have both yet to taste defeat over fences.

Ballyadam gives Elliott and Cheveley Park another big chance of Grade One glory in the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle.

The five-year-old made a most promising hurdling debut when landing an 18-runner maiden event at Down Royal by 12 lengths.

“He’s done very well. He won very cosily at Down Royal and looks a particularly progressive horse,” said Richardson.

“It’s obviously going to be a big test stepping him up, but he certainly looks full of potential.”

Elliott, who also has One Down and The Very Man in the seven-strong field, said: “Our chief hope for this race is Ballyadam. Since he came to us from the point-to-point field, he has looked like a horse with Grade One potential and now is his chance to prove it.

“He ended last season with an impressive bumper win at Downpatrick, after which Jamie (Codd) was very excited by him and you’d have to be impressed with what he showed when winning his maiden hurdle at Down Royal last month.

“He did everything right that day and showed me that this was the obvious race to aim for with him. This race is going to require a career best, but there is plenty more to come from our horse and I’ll be disappointed if he’s not closely involved.”

Elliott knows the task facing his two other runners.

“One Down is a grand horse, who has already won over hurdles this season and he has since posted two solid efforts in defeat,” he said.

“He is up against it here, but he is in very good form and will enjoy the ground, so we will let him take his chance and see if can he pick up some of the minor money. 

“The Very Man will be having his last run in novice company as he loses his novice status after this weekend.

“He is a consistent and reliable type who should run his race and I could see him running creditably, but a few of these should be too strong for him.”

Noel Meade’s Cask Mate, Ted Walsh’s Dewcup, the Willie Mullins-trained N’golo and Henry de Bromhead’s Annexation make up the list.

Honeysuckle faces six rivals as she seeks Hatton’s Grace repeat

Honeysuckle bids to take her unbeaten record under National Hunt rules to nine when she goes for back-to-back victories in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse on Sunday.

Five of her wins have come at the County Meath venue, including this race last year when she broke Apple’s Jade’s stranglehold in the two-and-a-half-mile feature.

After winning the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown in February, Henry de Bromhead’s brilliant mare ended a lucrative 2019-20 campaign when lowering the colours of Benie Des Dieux in the Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Her six rivals include the Willie Mullins-trained Bacardys, who was beaten nine lengths in second place in this race 12 months ago.

Gordon Elliott is two-handed with recent Grade Two Punchestown scorer Fury Road and Cracking Smart.

Jessica Harrington’s Supasundae runs in this race for a third time after finishing second in 2017 and 2018.

Matthew Smith’s Ronald Pump, runner-up in last season’s Stayers’ Hurdle, and Noel Meade’s Beacon Edge complete the septet.

Elliott’s exciting young prospect, Envoi Allen, faces just three rivals in the Drinmore Novice Chase.

Unbeaten in bumpers and over hurdles, the Cheveley Park-owned six-year-old took his 100 per cent record under rules to nine with an impressive chasing debut success at Down Royal.

Elliott also saddles Coko Beach while Joseph O’Brien provides the rest of the opposition with Assemble and Home By The Lee. Both have yet to taste defeat over fences.

The other Grade One on the card, the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle, has attracted seven runners.

Three are from the Elliott stable – Ballyadam, One Down and The Very Man – while Noel Meade relies on his very promising Cask Mate.

Ted Walsh’s Dewcup, the Mullins-trained N’golo and De Bromhead’s Annexation make up the field.

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 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.”

Envoi Allen headlines entries for Drinmore Novice Chase

Unbeaten star Envoi Allen tops 18 entries for the Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse on November 29.

Gordon Elliott’s runner has yet to be headed in nine starts under rules – counting four Grade Ones in bumper company and over hurdles so far – and he made a victorious debut over fences when cantering home at Down Royal last week.

Envoi Allen could now move straight up to the highest level over fences and is one of eight entries for Elliott, along with the likes of Cheltenham Festival scorer Milan Native, and Andy Dufresne and Pencilfulloflead, winners over fences at Wexford and Galway respectively.

Paul Nolan’s Latest Exhibition was a Grade One winner over hurdles and he also made a winning start in chase company at Punchestown last month, making him the chief rival to Envoi Allen.

Honeysuckle was a nine-length winner of last year’s Hatton’s Grace Hurdle and Henry de Bromhead’s charge has been entered to defend her crown, with a total of 12 horses given the option at this stage.

Willie Mullins has entered three, one-time Champion Hurdle favourite Saldier, Cheltenham Festival winner Saint Roi and last year’s Hatton’s Grace second Bacardys, with Elliott also putting in a trio of possibles in Sire Du Berlais, Cracking Smart and Fury Road.

Beacon Edge and Sixshooter are there for Noel Meade along with Matthew Smith’s Ronald Pump and Jessica Harrington’s multiple Grade One winner Supasundae.

Envoi Allen got the better of his own stable companion Abacadabras to win last year’s Royal Bond Novice Hurdle and Elliott holds a strong hand again, with Ballyadam, Call Me Lyreen and Eskylane among his team of seven.

Mullins provides nine of the 26 entries, including Cheltenham Festival winner Concertista, Finest Evermore and N’golo.

Cask Mate is one of three entries for Meade and the Ted Walsh-trained Dewcup is also in the early line-up.

Envoi Allen extends unbeaten run with easy win on chasing bow

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.

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“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.”

Farouk D'Alene on his way to victory at Down Royal
Farouk D’Alene on his way to victory at Down Royal (Brian Lawless/PA)

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.”

Skyace lunged late to claim Grade Three honours
Skyace lunged late to claim Grade Three honours (Brian Lawless/PA)

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.”

Key date for Elliott as stable stars return at Down Royal

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.

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“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.”

Gordon Elliott (centre) took plenty of pleasure in Envoi Allen winning the Ballymore
Gordon Elliott (middle) took plenty of pleasure in Envoi Allen winning the Ballymore (Andrew Matthews/PA)

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.

Delta Work may clash with Presenting Percy at Down Royal

Gordon Elliott is happy to let Delta Work clash with his new stable companion Presenting Percy in the Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal.

Delta Work finished a disappointing fourth in the first Grade One of the Irish National Hunt season last term, but raised his game to complete a top-level double with victories in the Savills Chase and the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown.

The Gigginstown House Stud-owned gelding rounded off his campaign by finishing fifth in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, and Elliott hopes he can find the necessary improvement to go even closer in the blue riband next March.

“To be only be beaten six lengths in the Gold Cup, with the way he jumped, I thought was very good,” said the Cullentra handler.

“He’s only seven, so he’s still a young horse – and I haven’t given up on him yet.

“If his jumping brushes up, he’s in the mix.”

Presenting Percy has never quite looked the same horse since his stunning display in the RSA Chase at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival.

Not too far behind Delta Work in both races at Leopardstown last season, however, the nine-year-old was making late headway when falling two fences from home in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham – and has since joined Elliott from Pat Kelly’s yard.

Elliott will train Presenting Percy for the Gold Cup, but also views him as a live Grand National contender.

Presenting Percy on the gallops on Monday morning (
Presenting Percy on the gallops on Monday morning (INPHO)

“The race at Down Royal (on Ocotber 31) is a Grade One, so I’d have no problem running the two of them – and I could run two or three more with them,” he added.

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“Presenting Percy is a horse I’ve always looked up to and said ‘he’s a horse you’d love to have’. I’m very lucky to have him.

“He probably has to improve half a stone to be a Gold Cup horse, but he ran well in a couple of those races in Leopardstown last year and was running a good race in the Gold Cup when he came down.

“To me, he has Grand National written all over him. He’s a good jumper who has a bit of class.

“I’d love to win a Gold Cup with him – but if that didn’t happen, the Grand National is in the back of my head.”

Tiger Roll enjoys a Monday morning shower
Tiger Roll enjoys a Monday morning shower (INPHO)

Elliott already houses a dual Grand National winner, of course, in the hugely popular Tiger Roll.

The 10-year-old holds an entry on the Flat at Navan on Thursday, but appears unlikely to take up the engagement.

Elliott said: “I stuck him in just to keep my options open, but I don’t know if I’ll run him.

“If the ground is good up in Down Royal I’d run him in the big race (Ladbrokes Champion Chase) there as well – if not I might keep him for the Boyne Hurdle in Navan.

“He’s in great form, and has been the horse of a lifetime.

“If everything goes well, we’ll dream about going back to Aintree this season.”

Three other Elliott stars set to reappear at Down Royal are Envoi Allen, Abacadabras and Samcro.

Envoi Allen is due to make his debut over fences at the Lisburn circuit; Champion Hurdle aspirant Abacadabras is pencilled in to contest the WKD Hurdle, and Samcro is bound for a Grade Two chase for second-season novices.

Elliott said of Envoi Allen: “He was bought to be a Gold Cup horse, and that’s the way we’re going to train him.

“He doesn’t do anything flashy at home – he’s just the real thing when he gets on to the track.

“I’m looking forward to starting him off in Down Royal. He’s going to come on from it – but if he’s going to be the horse we think he is, he should be winning in Down Royal.”

Abacadabras was last seen going down by just a short head to Nicky Henderson’s Shishkin in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, while Samcro bounced back to his best to beat the Willie Mullins-trained pair of Melon and Faugheen in a titanic tussle for the Marsh Novices’ Chase.

“I think Abacadabras has improved – he’s stronger looking. We’ve never really had very good two milers, but this horse is pretty quick,” said Elliott.

“Samcro is a very good horse, and I’ve been lucky to have him.

“Everyone says him winning at Cheltenham was a great training feat, and it was grand – but for me, running him in Limerick on that heavy ground at Christmas (when second to Faugheen) was a terrible training decision.

“I’m not going to make that mistake this year – if there’s heavy in the going, he won’t run.

Gordon Elliott is looking forward to the season ahead
Gordon Elliott is looking forward to the season ahead (INPHO)

“I’d say he’ll go to Down Royal, then the John Durkan, the Kinloch Brae and then the Ryanair Chase in Cheltenham. He’ll probably have an entry in the King George as well, but that’s what I have in my head at the moment.”

When asked what his one wish would be for the 2020/21 National Hunt season, Elliott did not hesitate in saying: “To be champion trainer.

“It was heart-breaking to get beat by Willie in the final week of the season at Punchestown in 2018 and in 2019 – we just got beat as well. Hopefully it’ll happen some day, and if it ever does I’ll really appreciate it.

“I think if you’re training horses, if you don’t want to be champion trainer, why would you do it? If you’ve got one trainer with an ambition of training 20 or 30 winners a year and another who wants to be champion trainer, I know who I’d like to have a horse with.

“We’re very lucky to have the amount of horses we have – hopefully we can keep them in one piece and have a good season.”

Elliott considering Down Royal return for National hero Tiger Roll

Dual Grand National hero Tiger Roll could start his season in the Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal at the end of this month.

The 10-year-old was denied the chance to join Red Rum as a three-time winner of the Aintree spectacular when it was cancelled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Owned by Gigginstown House Stud, Tiger Roll was last seen finishing second in the cross-country chase at Cheltenham in March, with Easysland denying him a remarkable fifth success at the Festival.

Hopes are high he will be back at Liverpool in April, but trainer Gordon Elliott has his sights firmly set on another Cheltenham victory as the first big aim.

Tiger Roll on his way to victory at Aintree
Tiger Roll on his way to victory at Aintree (Tim Goode/PA)

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Speaking on Betfair’s Racing Only Bettor Podcast, Elliott said: “It was a very rushed preparation to get him to Cheltenham last year and he got a little setback, as everyone knows. We got him to Cheltenham. He was very tired after Cheltenham. He was very tired. He had a hard race.

“The ground was probably softer than what he wanted that day. He was stiff and sore after the race. If you watch the re-run again, he loses his hind-end a little bit turning in, and he was sore.

“I think it might have been a blessing in disguise (no Grand National run). He’s a fresh horse this year. He’s absolutely bouncing at the moment.

“I’m not sure where I’m going to start him off yet, but do you know, he’s definitely going to have an entry in Down Royal in the big chase because if the ground turned up quick, you’d be nervous about running Presenting Percy or Delta Work. I’d hate to not have him entered.”

Asked about Cheltenham as a target, Elliott added: “It’s a big priority for me and he’ll be trained for Cheltenham, number one, and the Aintree Grand National, number two.”

Presenting Percy is now in the care of Gordon Elliott
Presenting Percy is now in the care of Gordon Elliott (Mike Egerton/PA)

Elliott has taken charge of Presenting Percy after owner Philip Reynolds opted to switch the classy chaser from Pat Kelly – and he could emerge as a rival to Tiger Roll at Aintree.

Elliott said: “He’s not your typical big three-mile chaser. He’s a short-coupled horse but he’s got – the one thing about him is he’s got a real deep girth, so loads of room there for oxygen, and a good heart. We’re happy with what he’s shown us at home.

“He’s being trained for the Gold Cup at the moment, but I definitely have the English Grand National in the back of my mind. I think he’s the type of horse that would suit the race. He’s got a lot of class. He travels. He jumps.”

All eyes will be on Envoi Allen when he goes novice chasing
All eyes will be on Envoi Allen when he goes novice chasing (Simon Cooper/PA)

In a yard packed full of talent, much attention will focus on Envoi Allen, as the dual Cheltenham Festival winner embarks on a novice chasing career.

Elliott said he does not expect to step up to three miles this season with the Cheveley Park Stud-owned gelding, adding: “I’d imagine if you asked me to put my hand on my heart now, his target in Cheltenham; I’d say it’s the Marsh (Novices’ Chase over two miles and five furlongs).”

The County Meath trainer also reported Samcro to be in good form and that he too could start at Down Royal, in the Grade Two intermediate chase.

He said: “He’d done a bit of work last week. Keith Donoghue rode him and he had a grin from one side of his face to the other. He was thrilled with him.”