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The latest stepping stone towards a return to the Cheltenham Festival for ENVOI ALLEN comes in the opening 2m 4f novice chase at Punchestown on Sunday. There are not many superlatives left to describe the unbeaten record of the Cheveley Park runner, who is having his third start over fences following his latest victory in the Grade 1 Drinmore at Fairyhouse.
His ability to find a stride and jump in impeccable fashion was a joy to watch on both starts over fences, and it’s hard to side against him – even with Asterion Forlonge in opposition and giving away 11lbs to the entire field. The Willie Mullins grey didn’t set the world alight when winning on his chasing debut at this venue in November, before falling in Grade 1 company at Limerick over Christmas.
These two rivals like to race handy and with concerns over the jumping of Asterion Forlonge, I wouldn’t be surprised if Jack Kennedy attempts to lead from the front from beginning to end. This race, as many people are suggesting this week, is perhaps Envoi Allen’s biggest challenge to date. However, he should once again find more when needed to demonstrate his class and ability.
Many of the best horses always seem leave a bit for themselves but show more when challenged, and hopefully that’s the case here before heading back to Cheltenham with the Marsh Chase his main target.
We move towards the backend of the Punchestown card on Sunday where Hell On Earth, Favori Logique, Miss Cedille and Good Luck Hope all meet again in this Beginners Chase. All four horses are stepping up in trip in this one having finished behind Itsalonglongroad at Tramore earlier this month.
Gigginstown runner Hell On Earth looks the most open improver over the longer distance, but all four might have to battle for places behind ENSEL DU PERCHE. The Gavin Cromwell-trained runner is lightly raced with just four career starts under rules and makes his debut over fences here.
He finished sixth in a maiden hurdle behind Latest Exhibition in October 2019, before returning to the track at Naas last month after a long absence. That was an excellent return with the seven-year-old going down fighting in a good finish behind Free Thought and Pictures Of Home when finishing third. He looks the type to take to fences nicely and despite his lack of experience over the bigger obstacles, he’s a valued selection in an open looking contest.
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KRISTIAN GOINGWELL travelled and jumped well at Limerick over Christmas and was unlucky to find Johnnys Girl to good on that occasion. The Oliver McKiernan-trained runner will appreciate the slight drop in distance and, despite going up a further 2lbs in the ratings, can get back to winning ways under new jockey Barry Browne.
An Marcach wears cheekpieces for the first-time and returns to the track on better terms with my selection having finished third at Down Royal last month. He’s got a good chance for Des Donovan, but might have to settle for a place yet again behind the McKiernan nine-year-old. Elsewhere, It’s Only A Number is another with a place chance, but comes here after a poor enough performance when third at Tramore last month.
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