Envoi Allen put a nightmare end to last season behind him as he returned to action with a cosy success in the Join Racing TV Chase at Down Royal.
The seven-year-old was unbeaten in 11 races for Gordon Elliott, which included Grade One glory in bumper company as well as over hurdles and fences, before he was switched to the care of Henry de Bromhead by owners Cheveley Park Stud last March.
He then suffered a shock defeat when he crashed out as a hot favourite in the Marsh Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival before trying to redeem himself at Punchestown, where he was pulled up with two fences to jump in the Champion Novice Chase.
It later transpired Envoi Allen had chipped a joint, which required surgery, but he showed no ill effects as he made all under Rachael Blackmore in this Grade Two affair.
Coko Beach pressed Envoi Allen through the early part of the race, but when Blackmore gave the signal before the second-last fence, Envoi Allen upped a gear and soon pulled clear, jumping the final fence in isolation before being eased down for a 22-length win as the 4-11 favourite.
Coral make Envoi Allen a 7-1 chance for next year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup and De Bromhead believes his charge is definitely back on form now.
He said: “It’s brilliant to have him back. Obviously, things just didn’t go right for us sadly – obviously at Cheltenham and then at Punchestown as well.
“I had never seen it before but he must have hit the fence so hard (at Punchestown). He had a little chip that Gerry Kelly removed and it is fantastic to see him back on track and I’m delighted for Cheveley Park.
“He was brilliant.
“To be honest I thought he was mighty going to Cheltenham, possibly too well – too fresh and well. It was just unlucky and Punchestown again just didn’t fall right for us.
“It is lovely to start afresh and to start back like that. He jumped brilliant and you can tell by the smile on Rachael’s face the buzz she got off it.
“He will step forward from that. I was so focused on this I hadn’t really discussed anything but the John Durkan would look a very obvious race for him.”
When asked about moving up to three miles and beyond, De Bromhead added: “We’ll see. He is a very pacey horse and I’d say it could go either way.”
Gordon Elliott won the Value Cabs 3yo Hurdle for the fifth time in seven years when new recruit Fil Dor bolted up.
Second on his only outing in France, he looks sure to take high rank among the juvenile division this season given what previous winners of this race have gone on to achieve.
The likes of Espoir D’Allen and last year’s winner Quilixios show the type of animal usually required to win and Davy Russell never had a worry on the 5-4 joint-favourite.
“He’s a fair horse and he will be good over juvenile hurdles this year,” said Elliott.
“He was impressive and he’s a good horse. I love the way he did it, he would be so relaxed through a race which is more important.
“He might go for a graded race in Fairyhouse.
“He’ll go on any ground.”
Mighty Potter (4-9 favourite) ensured it was a quick-fire short-priced double for Elliott in the Tayto Group Maiden Hurdle.
Another race with an illustrious roll of honour, Envoi Allen and Ballyadam being the last two winners, Jack Kennedy was on board this time.
Mighty Potter was going noticeably better than stablemate The Greek when he crashed out at the last, allowing the winner to come home 29 lengths clear.
Russell was on The Greek and twisted his knee in the fall, forcing him to give up his remaining rides.
“We think he is a nice horse, we like him a lot. He’s still very babyish,” said Elliott.
“I’d say that’s the way he will be going (for a graded race). We’ll try to find a winners’ race now, but the problem is you have to go for a graded race now.
“He has always shown us plenty.”
Russell then missed a winning ride with Kennedy stepping in to steer Eskylane (4-1 joint-favourite) to victory in the Dr Emma Clinics Handicap Hurdle, giving Elliott an opening race treble.
“Jack gave him a wonderful ride, it is unfortunate for David (Russell) that he couldn’t ride him,” said Elliott.
“He’s bred to stay and has won a nice pot, so that is great.
“He’s in the Greatwood but we’ll see, we might just keep him away for Christmas.”