Gordon Elliott's star chaser Envoi Allen is back in action at Punchestown on Sunday, and here the Betfair Ambassador gives his exclusive thoughts on his current wellbeing as well as his other runners on the day...
"I just love the way he has jumped and taken to chasing. He looks a real natural at his fences and that is a huge assert to him."
- Gordon Elliott on Envoi Allen
*Best Chance - Envoi Allen (12:50)
It's a big day for us with Envoi Allen making his third appearance over fences and he's in great shape and raring to go again so hopefully he can come through this latest test in good shape and then we can build towards the Marsh Novices Chase at Cheltenham.
From the moment he crossed the line in the Drinmore this race has been his aim. The trip is perfect for him and the timing of the race fits in very nicely with Cheltenham and it gives us close to two months to prepare him for that meeting.
So far I've been delighted with what he has done over fences. He hasn't yet faced the sort of opposition that he did over hurdles or in his bumpers but I just love the way he has jumped and taken to chasing. He looks a real natural at his fences and that is a huge assert to him.
The fact that he won a Grade 1 last time and now lines up in a Grade 3 means that he has a fair penalty (11 lbs) to carry and he has to give away plenty of weight to Asterion Forlonge who is a high class horse on his day and was good enough to win a Grade 1 over hurdles last season.
The weight concession means that this is a good test for Envoi Allen, his biggest of the season I would say, but he is in great shape and couldn't be happier with him and he's the one they all have to beat.
Can acquit himself well despite rise in class
He's a lovely horse and a brother to Abacadabras and I hope he could emulate that horse by making up into a high class novice hurdler. I have to say I was a bit surprised when he got beaten on his debut in a Punchestown bumper back in October but his maiden hurdle win at Navan last month was much more like it and I thought he won very nicely. He looks to have sharpened up and learnt plenty from Navan and while he is taking a big step up in class for this race I think he could acquit himself well.
Diablo has schooled well but Excelcior is best watched
I thought Don Diablo would have been able to win a bumper and while he was beaten on his three runs in that sphere he showed up well against some reasonable types. I'm hoping he can progress now that he switches to jumping. He has schooled well and comes here off a nice break so hopefully he will give a good account of himself but I am expecting him to progress from this run and he might be one that appreciates slightly better ground than he will encounter here.
Excelcior is a horse who has taken plenty of time since coming to us from France where he won on the flat. He seems a grand horse and his recent work has suggested that he is ready to start off but I'd say he is best watched for the moment as he has been off the track a long time and he is one who I think will progress with racing.
Can get involved if at her best
We didn't see the best of this mare when she ran at Tramore last month when she was well beaten but she is a generally reliable sort and her two previous runs at this track and at Thurles would give her a chance. She handles this ground and this is a good trip for her and if she runs up to her best I could see her getting involved. She's got an each-way chance.
Big step up in trip could suit
He ran a nice race at Tramore last time when he was just touched off over two miles. I know he is taking a major step up in trip today but he was second over two and a half miles over hurdles at Faiyhouse last season and I always thought that this sort of trip might suit him as a chaser. Also most of Germany's progeny do tend to stay well so it's worth trying in a race whose conditions suit him and if it doesn't work out he can always come back in trip. He's got an each-way chance.
Ideal conditions for Sam but big step forward needed for Minella
Out Sam has been running quite well this season. He was fifth in the Cork National and then showed up well in a cross country chase at Cheltenham. He doesn't help himself with the odd slow jump but for a horse of his age he still has lots of enthusiasm for the game and these are his ideal conditions - testing ground and an extended three miles. I could see him running a big race.
Minellafordollars was a promising horse earlier in his career but he hasn't shown much for a while and his two runs this season would leave him with plenty to do. He has had a good break since he last ran so he comes here a fresh horse and that might help but he has got to take a major step forward to get involved. We've put blinkers on him and they might help to sharpen him up.