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Envoi Allen crashes out as Chantry House takes Marsh honours

Chantry House took the Marsh Novices’ Chase after Envoi Allen’s untimely and unexpected early exit in the opening race on the third day of the Cheltenham Festival.

All eyes had been on Envoi Allen and there was a real sense of anti-climax when the 4-9 favourite came down at the fourth fence, leaving his jockey Jack Kennedy disconsolate.

It was trainer Nicky Henderson who was the beneficiary, saddling the 9-1 winner Chantry House, ridden by Nico de Boinville, as well as the runner-up Fusil Raffles for good measure.

The latter was up front from the start along with Shan Blue, who was given the office by Harry Skelton to stretch the field a long way out.

That injection of pace caught the opposition off guard, but they still were able to reel in Dan Skelton’s charge after three out where the Henderson pair were in prime position.

Chantry House proved the stronger up the hill to prevail by three lengths from Fusil Raffles and give Henderson a 70th winner at the Festival.

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Asterion Forlonge was another two lengths back in third, with Chatham Street Lad fourth.

Henderson said: “He was very good. To be fair, when Dan’s horse quickened up down the back, it was a bit like last year. When he ran in the Supreme behind Shishkin he looked to need another half mile and it looked the same again.

“You’d have to think he’ll be going over three miles sooner rather than later.

“At Wetherby last time out he was good, but he needed surgery on his back after he ran here the time before. He did well to get back in time to run at Wetherby, in truth.

A long walk back for a devastated Jack Kennedy after the fall of Envoi Allen
A long walk back for a devastated Jack Kennedy after the fall of Envoi Allen (Tim Goode/PA)

“He’s a lovely horse and I’d hoped he would at least give Envoi Allen a bit of a race, but you’ve got to take it when you are given a chance like that.

“I don’t know why we wouldn’t go over three miles at Aintree or Punchestown, it just depends how quick he recovers.”

He added: “It’s a pity he (Envoi Allen) fell from a lot of points of view, but on the other hand it was nice to take the opportunity. He’s looked flawless all year so it was a surprise to see him do that.

“We looked in top gear for a lot of the race there, so it certainly looked like going further would help him.

“We’ve had a couple of disappointments this week, it’s nice to get JP (McManus, owner) on the board for the week, too.”

Henry de Bromhead, trainer of Envoi Allen, said: “Jack just said he was a little bit keen. He just launched at the fence, unfortunately, and that was it.

“I’ve had a look at him though and he looked fine, and Jack’s fine too, so that’s good.”

Henry de Bromhead walks down to console Jack Kennedy
Henry de Bromhead walks down to console Jack Kennedy (David Davies/Jockey Club)

Kennedy said: “He is fine, so that’s the main thing. He was very keen down over the first few fences and he was very brave over the first two.

“He went down and popped the third fence then and I thought he might be settling into it, but he went down and let fly at that one and fell. That’s hugely disappointing, but we live to fight another day.

“He was just doing too much with me in behind horses and he just came up out of my hands and landed on the top of the fence. He will learn from it, I suppose. He’s never made a mistake in his life so that was probably too good to be true.

“Something was going to happen at some point, so he will learn from it.”

Winters has eyes set on Marsh assignment with Chatham Street Lad

Chatham Street Lad has the Marsh Novices’ Chase as his Cheltenham objective after connections took the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup winner out of his four other Festival engagements.

Trainer Michael Winters has removed the nine-year-old from the Sporting Life Arkle Trophy, the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase, the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase and the Ryanair to concentrate solely on the the Grade One novice chase over two and a half miles.

Winters is bringing Chatham Street Lad back to his peak after giving him a break following a defeat at Fairyhouse last month.

“He’s not out of the Marsh. He’s still in that one. That’s the race the owners want to run in,” said the County Cork handler on Wednesday.

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“He had a good break and we’ve taken him to the beach today to freshen him up.

“He’d had quite a bit of racing and he slightly disappointed the last day so we thought we’d freshen him up for Cheltenham.

“He cantered on the beach and in the water and he’s had some physio. He’s thriving.

“There were a lot of small things the last day. If we are going to run a good race the next day we are going to have to be 100 per cent.

“That’s what we’re aiming for and we think he has a good chance. We’d like to see plenty of rain in England.”

Sporting John could be one of Chatham Street Lad’s rivals in the Marsh, after trainer Philip Hobbs revealed ground conditions will determine which race the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase winner will grace at the showpiece meeting.

Sporting John (right) now has a choice of two races at Cheltenham
Sporting John (right) now has a choice of two races at Cheltenham (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Hobbs took Sporting John out of the Arkle at the latest forfeit stage, but has left the JP McManus-owned six-year-old in the Marsh and the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase over three miles.

“We’ve taken Sporting John out of the Arkle and he will either now run in the Marsh or what was the RSA. It will all depend on what the ground conditions are like,” said the Minehead handler.

“If the ground was very soft you would stick to two and a half in the Marsh, but if it wasn’t you would probably look at going further with him.

“It was obviously very pleasing to see him win like he did and warm to the task at Sandown, as it shows he is going in the right direction.”