Envoi Allen’s Cheltenham Festival chances assessed by Paddy’s pundits

The next big thing in racing has failed to justify the hype.

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Envoi Allen – once seen as the hottest prospect in National Hunt racing – heads into this year’s Cheltenham Festival as an outsider for the Ryanair Chase.

The Cheveley Park bay gelding was unbeaten in 11 races under rules including Cheltenham successes in the Champion Bumper and Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle before falling when odds-on favourite in last season’s Marsh Novices’ Chase.

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He’s stepped up to open company this term but finished a long way behind Allaho in the John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase and was unconvincing when scoring in the Grade 1 Paddy’s Rewards Club Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas.

Envoi Allen has plenty to find if he’s to make a mark in the Ryanair Chase but, speaking on the latest episode of our Cheltenham Countdown podcast series, Ruby Walsh and Rory Delargy are not convinced he’s progressed. You can listen to the show in full BELOW.

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Rory Delargy:

“What we thought he would be is very different to what he actually is. He was ahead of the curve and he was very good but he plateaued quite a while ago. He’s had a couple of mishaps but when he’s refound winning form this year he’s just looked like he’s stalled.

“He’s still capable of the form he showed early as a novice but when you’re talking about Championship races, you need these novices to take another step forward of about 14lbs in the rating to be winning them.

“He’s coming off a Grade 1 win but it was a massively unimpressive Grade 1 win. I couldn’t have him but stranger things have happened at Cheltenham and if he does pop up there’ll be a lot of people saying ‘I told you so’ and clutching big- price betting slips, but he doesn’t appeal to me.”

Ruby Walsh:

“We were all factoring in the potential he had as a novice but that improvement doesn’t seem to have come. He was obviously mature as a bumper horse and novice hurdler and then plateaued in his novice chase season.

“That’s probably where we get carried away in racing. We put so much emphasis on the Supreme Novices Hurdle and the Arkle Chase, but ultimately it’s about the Championship races and there’s a gulf between novices and ‘Open’ class.

“We’re all looking for that horse to get into Open class and we get enthralled by the novice races, but so few make that step up in grade. At times we probably don’t give enough credit to the Championship horses because we’re hyping the novices to take them on.”

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