Gordon Elliott’s leading chance Envoi Allen carry the Irish ‘banker’ label into the Festival and it’s hard to disagree.
I think he’s a certainty.
He won the Champion Bumper in good style at the Festival last season and is unbeaten now in eight starts, including two Grade One hurdles this season. The last time he started odds-against (2/1f) was in the Champion Bumper last year. The even money about him now mightn’t last by the time the second day of Cheltenham swings around.
It looks like Min will step up in trip for the Ryanair Chase after the younger Chacun Pour Soi proved a little too good for him in the two mile Dublin Chase at the Dublin Racing Festival.
There was no shame in defeat and by the time Min comes to race in this we’ll know exactly how his Leopardstown conqueror got on in the Champion Chase the day before.
He was spectacular at Aintree last season over 2m 4f and impressive again over the same trip on his seasonal debut in the Grade One John Durkan Chase at Punchestown.
The step up in trip will help him at Cheltenham and he hasn’t got a rating of 171 for nothing.
There’s nothing we’ve seen in either Ireland or England to match the reigning Champion Stayer, Paisley Park. Any jockey would love to have him as their ace in the pack and he looks another one of the Festival bankers for me. He’s carried all before him since finishing down the field in the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle when a 33/1 outsider in 2018.
Since then he’s rattled off seven wins on the bounce, giving trainer Emma Lavelle her first Group One success in December 2018 at Ascot. The manner of his latest win in the Grade 2 Cleeve Hurdle winner was impressive and I really can’t see anything beating him on all the evidence we’ve seen so far.
There may have been a little over-reaction to his last-flight fall at Leopardstown at the Dublin Racing Festival. Some argue he would have won – others weren’t so sure.
Henry de Bromhead’s runner won his maiden hurdle impressively at Punchestown and was ultra-impressive in the Grade 2 Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown when beating subsequent winner Wolf Prince by 18 lengths with A Wave of the Sea (who won the race Aspire Tower fell in at Leopardstown) well back in third.
He was decent when trained in the UK on the Flat, so spring ground should help at the Festival if you can forgive him that last hurdle fall.
Willie Mullins’ reigning champ has had the exact same preparation as last season and arguably ran even better on his seasonal debut at Tramore on New Year’s Day, compared to his run there last season. He goes straight to the Festival now in a bid to retain his Gold Cup crown.
Plenty have tried and failed to do that before with Best Mate the last winner to retain the Blue Riband in 2002 as part of his hat-trick of wins. Kauto Star regained it in 2009 after losing out to Denman a year earlier.
There looks to be question marks over a lot of the leading contenders like Santini, Lostintranslation and Presenting Percy, while Gordon Elliott’s Delta Work has improved with each run this season.
Al Boum Photo has ‘been there, done that’ and goes to Cheltenham a fresh horse with a leading chance again.
*Prices quoted are part of Paddy Power’s non runner money back offer on Cheltenham 2020