For many he’s the banker of the 2020 Cheltenham Festival but Christopher Loader (@luckyloaders15) is taking him on. Check out the case against Ireland’s leading novice hurdler
Envoi Allen has been a cashpoint for favourite backers in his career, winning every start under Rules for Gordon Elliott, and he’s become the 2020 Cheltenham Festival banker for many fans and pundits.
But I’m not convinced he’s the real deal and I’m going to outline my reasons why he will not be receiving my support to win at Prestbury Park this year.
Envoi Allen won the Grade 1 Lawlor of Naas Novice Hurdle this month, beating Elixir D’Ainay. The six-year-old seemed ideally positioned on the day and was workmanlike in his style of victory. The opposition, apart from Conflated who didn’t show too much when finishing third in a small Grade 2 event won by Latest Exhibition at Navan, had no experience of Graded races.
This Naas race has been a poisoned chalice in recent years for horses going on to run at the Cheltenham Festival. The last winner who went on to score in the same season at Cheltenham was Mikael d’Haguenet, who landed the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle in 2009. Some of the notable names to have won at Naas and gone on to disappoint at Cheltenham in the same year include the likes of Bellshill, Jury Duty and Battleoverdoyen.
Envoi Allen’s career-best effort so far was his win in the Grade 1 Royal Bond at Fairyhouse, where he got the better of Abacadabras, who has arguably given him the most to worry about over hurdles. That win was a game effort by the Cheveley Park-owned gelding who was asked to dig deep to hold off the charge of his strong-travelling stablemate.
Abacadabras subsequently franked the form by winning a below-par Grade 1 Novice Hurdle at the Leopardstown Christmas Festival, but I would not take that form seriously as Abacadabras lacks star quality and a determined will to outfight his rivals.
Some readers will already be screaming at these views and point out that Envoi Allen has already proved himself at Cheltenham, winning the Champion Bumper last year. But that race hasn’t produced a winner who went on to be top class over jumps since Cue Card (2010) and Champagne Fever (2012) and the form of Envoi Allen’s Festival win has been mixed.
The race has produced winners such as Thyme Hill, Abacadabras, Glancing Queen and Master Debonair but those horses have failed to excite me and they will get found out by better opposition at the big festivals. Blue Sari, who finished a close second in the Champion Bumper hasn’t really shown anything to write home about over obstacles, scrambling home on his hurdles debut at Punchestown and then flopping in the Grade 1 won by Abacadabras.
Envoi Allen clearly deserves to be favourite for many of his potential targets at Cheltenham Festival because he’s unbeaten, but he’s ridiculously short at 5-4 for the Ballymore and he could be vulnerable to exciting novices such as Fiddlerontheroof, The Big Breakaway, King Roland and Latest Exhibition, who could still have more to offer, while Envoi Allen may not be open to much more improvement.
Horses who have won Grade 1s by this point in the season can often get found out after having hard races before the Festival. That point was highlighted in my recent King George preview and Cyrname and Lostintranslation subsequently disappointed. Competing in a tough race needs to be taken more seriously when analysing form.
If Gordon Elliott sends Envoi Allen to the Dublin Racing Festival in February, I’ll be wanting to take him on even more in March because most winners at the Cheltenham Festival in recent seasons have done all their winning by the end of January.
Envoi Allen hasn’t done anything wrong but the form, preparation and trends could be all against him when it comes to his chances at the Cheltenham Festival. I understand why a lot of pundits and racing fans have him as their Festival banker but he’s not for me and I have a fair record of going against the status quo with seemingly bombproof horses. Those results can be seen with the likes of Saxon Warrior in the 2018 Derby and most recently in the King George. I think I’ll be adding Envoi Envoi Allen to that list come March