The Gordpn Elliott trained Envoi Allen was among four performers to enhance their 2020 Cheltenham Festival claims with ultra-impressive victories on seasonal reappearance at Down Royal.

Envoi Allen put in an electric round of jumping on debut over the obstacles when sent off the 1/4 favourite and coasting to a 6 1/2 length success over Front View in the 2m maiden hurdle. Last season’s Champion Bumper winner was immediately taken to the front by Davy Russell and tanked along throughout before asserting under a hands and heels ride to extend his unbeaten run under rules to five. The strapping five-year-old could not have been any more impressive and for me produced one of most foot perfect displays I have ever witnessed by a hurdling debutante.

He looks capable of living up to his superstar status and bookmakers were also suitably impressed. Envoi Allen is now a best priced 4/1 favourite with Unibet for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle ran on Day 2 of the 2020 Cheltenham Festival. The last winner of the Champion Bumper to go on and land that Grade 1 contest was Monsignor in 2000.

Speaking after the race, a delighted and somewhat relieved Elliott told Racing TV:

“He’s very good and he would have learned plenty there today too with his jumping. He’ll probably go to Fairyhouse now for the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle.”

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Samcro Now Clear Favourite for JLT

 Samcro got his career back on track when making a foot-perfect start to his career over fences in the extended 2m 3f Advanced NI Scaffolding Beginners Chase.

The Gigginstown House Stud owned seven-year-old, who is also trained by Elliott looked to have the world at his feet after a novice hurdle season which included victory in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival.

However, nothing went to plan in his first three starts over hurdles last season and he was put away shortly after Christmas after being diagnosed with a lung infection. Despite his lengthy absence, Samcro was sent off a heavily backed 1/3 favourite for his eagerly awaited debut over the larger obstacles and his legion of supporters never had an anxious moment
After tracking the leaders under Keith Donoghue, who was partnering him for the first time, Samcro took up the running at the seventh and quickly opened up a four length lead.

He then gradually edged further clear without his jockey having to move a muscle to win unextended by 17 lengths from Trapist Monk. I thought Samcro took to fences like a duck to water and it was a confidence boosting success that will have done him the world of good. He has the potential to go right to the top over fences and the JLT Novices’ Chase looks the obvious target for him at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival should all go to plan.

The seven-year-old is now favourite across the board for that 2m 4f contest and as short as 5/1 in a place. 888sport, however, go 8/1 and in my eyes that looks terrific value.

Coeur Puts in Sublime Performance in WKD

In a two day meeting at Down Royal which was dominated by County Meath based handler Elliott, Coeur Sublime emerged as a live contender for the 2020 Champion Hurdle when romping to a facile success in the Grade 2 WKD Hurdle.

The four-year-old, who finished runner-up to Pentland Hills in the Grade 1 Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival back in March, proved a cut above his four rivals. After racing prominently throughout under an ultra-confident Davy Russell, Coeur Sublime took up the running three from home and went clear on the bridle.

Despite being heavily eased close home, he crossed the line 15 lengths clear of stable companion Coko Beach. The runner-up is no mug.having also finished second at this year’s Cheltenham Festival, and you could not fail to be impressed with the manner in which Coeur Sublime got the job done with the minimum of fuss.

Elliott said:

“He’s a nice horse – he was second in a Triumph Hurdle and was entitled to do that. He will stay further in time too. <…> He looks a lot stronger this year and Davy says he feels like a different horse. We’ll have plenty of fun with him. He’ll have to improve to go the Champion Hurdle route but there are plenty of Grade Twos and Grade Threes to be won.”

Whilst he may well have to improve to land the spoils in the 2020 Champion Hurdle, the race has a wide-open look to it at this stage and at 25/1 with William Hill I would not putting anyone off backing him each-way for the showpiece event on the opening day.

Road To Respect Retains Champion Chase Crown

Road To Respect got the better of terrific tussle with Clan Des Obeaux to record back-to-back successes in the Grade 1 Down Royal Champion Chase – prompting Paddy Power to cut him into 12/1 from 16/1 for the Ryanair Chase at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival.

The Noel Meade trained gelding relished the soft underfoot conditions and put in an assured round of jumping before asserting on the run-in to beat Paul Nicholls’ King George winner by four lengths.It was a fourth victory at the highest level for the Gigginstown Stud owned eight-year-old who has run well at the last two Cheltenham Festivals, finishing fourth in the Gold Cup and a fine third in the Ryanair 12 months ago when slightly let down by his jumping.

Meade now has has high hopes that, unlike last season, the race will prove a springboard to further success.
He said:

“To be honest, last season got destroyed when he ran on fast ground at Leopardstown. Everyone kept saying he wants fast ground – he doesn’t, he wants soft ground, and it destroyed his jumping. He didn’t jump in Cheltenham, because he wouldn’t let himself go in the shoulders. <…> (Owners) Michael and Eddie (O’Leary) will make plans. Michael has always been keen to stay in Ireland before going to Cheltenham.”

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