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Envoi Allen, Novice Hurdlers & Some 2023 Cheltenham Thoughts

Brian Hayes for Bookies.com

Brian Hayes  | 7 mins

Envoi Allen, Novice Hurdlers & Some 2023 Cheltenham Thoughts

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What a brilliant weekend of horse racing that was.

The highlight, of course, was the Grade 1 at Down Royal. I was delighted to see Envoi Allen win under Rachael; a Grade 1 win early in the season can help take some pressure off, so it was great to see for all involved with the horse.

Envoi Allen lost his way a little bit maybe in recent times but has always been a class act, and on Saturday, he also showed that he has plenty of stamina to boot. When a horse loses confidence, it can take a long time to get them back to their absolute best, so it was a fantastic training performance from Henry de Bromhead and his team.

If Envoi can keep improving, he could well turn out to be a contender, but in truth, it probably was not the strongest renewal of the Down Royal showpiece. I am far from dismissing his chances over staying trips in the future as he can definitely mix it with the top staying chasers, but for something like the Cheltenham Gold Cup, I would not be rushing out to support him just yet.

...everyone else has a massive job on to turn the tables on him.

I had my first look at the market this week, and to be honest I was surprised to see A Plus Tard was only second favourite with the horse racing betting sites.

Obviously, there is a lot of water to go under the bridge yet, but he must be the one to beat! That performance in the Gold Cup in March was phenomenal; I have never seen a Gold Cup won with such authority. Rachael rode him for a bit of speed that day, and he blitzed the field, so if he can reproduce that level of performance again, then everyone else has a massive job on to turn the tables on him.

Galopin Des Champs’ position with the best betting sites shows very clearly how highly he is thought of, and Willie loves him as everyone knows. He has shown a massive level of ability and should have finished the season unbeaten.

However, he must show he can do it at open level, and until he does so, his price is quite short.

There are numerous interesting ones in the Gold Cup picture, but I thought Stattler and Noble Yeats were two horses who could well run into a place, at least, with big odds on offer (please bet responsibly if doing so).

Stattler looks a big price at 20/1 with ante post horse racing sites if he can keep improving. In my Bookies.com article for the 2022 Cheltenham Festival, I said how Patrick loved him last year, and that is still very much the case. He will be campaigned as a Gold Cup horse, and I’m interested to see how high he will rank at the end of the season.

...the Gold Cup picture is looking exciting this year!

Noble Yeats is as high 66/1 in the current Cheltenham odds, and I just think this horse could keep improving. I won on him twice before he changed ownership, and I always thought very highly of him. He obviously won the Grand National, so we know he stays, but his win at Wexford showed the Grand National win had no ill effects, and he could well be good enough to run well in a Gold Cup. He is one to keep an eye on as the season progresses as he is trained by the very shrewd Emmet Mullins, who could well eke more improvement out of him.

Only time will tell, but the Gold Cup picture is looking exciting this year!

Novice Hurdlers

For the next few weeks, I will offer up my thoughts on a few horses from each division, starting with the novice hurdlers this week.

It’s probably best to start with Seabank Bistro, as I rode him to finish fourth in the Champion Bumper at the 2022 Cheltenham Festival.

I thought he ran a brilliant race that day, and his efforts deserve to be marked up as we tried to go with the winner from a long way out, paying for that in the finish as we faded outside the first three, but it was a huge run. He relished the testing conditions that day and could be a force in the staying novice hurdle division.

...Facile Vega looks as good as anything I have seen at this point in his career.

American Mike was second and James’s Gate was third, which shows you the depth of form on offer as they are two top-quality horses. The way he stayed showed that the Albert Bartlett will be very interesting for him and 25/1 with bet365 is probably too big for one of his abilities.

Obviously, of the others around the Willie Mullins yard, Facile Vega looks as good as anything I have seen at this point in his career. David Porter rides him out at home and is never slow to tell you how good he thinks he is. He has speed in abundance but showed last season he stays well also, so he can go whatever trip they decide to with him.

Another young hurdler who shows plenty at home is Impulsive Dancer, who is flat bred. He won a bumper in brilliant style for Richard O’Brien and was bought afterwards by Simon Munir & Isaac Souede to be trained in Closutton. Two months after this, he won again at Limerick, again in the style of a particularly good horse. He looks one for the minimum trip.

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In that same bumper at Limerick, Mercurey went off a short-priced favourite but could only finish third on the day when disappointing. He is a much better horse than that and shows a high level of ability. The fact that Patrick picked him on the day shows that in spades, and he is another who is showing plenty at home. Susannah and Rich Ricci have a nice team this year again, and this lad will more than pay his way if he can keep going as he has done.

Finally, another horse who is not getting the attention he deserves is Champ Kiely. He was brilliant at Galway and followed that up with another impressive victory at Tipperary. He easily saw off the likes of Brazil and Hubrisko, who are decent horses themselves. Just because he has started his season so early does not mean he should be taken lightly; he looks very good.

The weekend ahead

It is a superb weekend ahead with brilliant racing at Cheltenham, Naas and Navan.

Dads Lad did a good piece of work and looks like he is probably heading over to take his chance in the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham on Sunday. Obviously, anything can happen between the time of writing and Sunday, but it looks good for now anyway!

He has been a revelation this season, and if the ground does not get too soft, I would fancy his chances. Dads Lad has just kept improving, and it is hard to know when he will find his level.

Let us hope it is not Sunday!

About the Author

Brian Hayes for Bookies.com
Brian Hayes
Brian Hayes is a leading Irish jockey based with the Willie Mullins yard and regular rider at all the big national hunt racing festivals including Galway, Punchestown Aintree and Cheltenham. The Cork native has ridden high in the riding ranks despite not hailing from a racing background and quickly becoming a relied on partner for some of the best horses in top training yards.