Champagne Classic won the Martin Pipe at the Cheltenham Festival in 2017, but he has missed the meeting in each of the last two years, owing to injury in 2018 and connections’ decision not to make the trip last term after he had failed to win either of his first two starts over fences.
The nine-year-old has enjoyed a much better time of things this season, though, winning a maiden at Fairyhouse and listed event at Wexford, before producing an even better effort in defeat when chasing home stablemate Battleoverdoyen in Grade 1 company at Leopardstown last time, keeping on well to be beaten just a length.
Behind only Carefully Selected in the ante-post betting for the National Hunt Chase, he has already achieved more than that rival on Timeform ratings and is a good bet, with the increased stamina test at Cheltenham expected to see him in an even better light.
Unbeaten in four starts in bumpers in 2018/19, including the Champion Bumper at the Festival, Envoi Allen has continued to sweep all before him since switching to hurdles this season, with his three wins including a pair of Grade 1s.
His best effort to date came in the Royal Bond Novices’ Hurdle at Fairyhouse, where he travelled well and jumped fluently before typically finding plenty for pressure on the run-in to beat stablemate – and leading Supreme contender – Abacadabras by a length and a half.
That remains the best effort we’ve seen in this division all season, while the large ‘P’ attached to his rating denotes that he may yet have even more to offer, too.
Unless the ground comes up heavy, he looks set to head to the Ballymore at the Festival, for which he has all the makings of an Irish banker.
Similar status is held by Cross Country contender Tiger Roll, who was certainly the toast of punters when easily justifying favouritism in last year’s renewal, forging clear to win by 22 lengths and record his fourth success at the Festival.
Few horses have ever made their way into the affections of National Hunt fans as Tiger Roll has in recent years, with his back-to-back successes in the Grand National playing no small part in that.
A third win at Aintree remains his primary target this season – a feat that would see his popularity soar higher still – but he holds obvious form claims as he attempts to add to his Cheltenham legacy in the interim, with his recent spin in the Boyne Hurdle likely to have blown the cobwebs away after a 10-month absence.
Completing our quartet is another Festival hero in the shape of The Storyteller, who landed the Plate in 2018, when he was one of a joint-record eight winners for Elliott at the meeting.
Admittedly, the nine-year-old has struggled for wins in the intervening period, falling between the two stools of high-end handicapper and genuine graded performer. He made the most of a good opportunity over hurdles when winning a minor event at Clonmel in December, while his latest outing when sixth in a qualifier for this race at Leopardstown identified him as one who is potentially ahead of his mark going to Cheltenham.
That much is obvious judged on the pick of his chase form – his Irish hurdles mark is 16 lb lower than his chase rating – but there was also plenty of encouragement to be taken from the way he shaped, doing his best work at the finish to secure a qualifying spot in much the same way stablemate Sire du Berlais did on his way to Pertemps Final success in 2019.
*Prices correct at time of publishing and are part of Paddy Power’s non runner money back offer