All eyes will be on Envoi Allen as the exciting prospect bids to confirm the impression of his impressive fencing debut in the Baroneracing.com Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse on Sunday.
The Cheveley Park-owned six-year-old, trained by Gordon Elliott, lived up to his billing when successful at Down Royal last month, adding to his unbeaten tally under all codes.
Envoi Allen now steps into Grade One company over fences with connections only too aware of the pressure that goes with having a horse of such great potential.
“He’s unbeaten, he’s exciting and he’s in great form,” said Chris Richardson, managing director of owners Cheveley Park Stud.
“In his last race he was so professional. He didn’t put a foot wrong.
“There’s nothing you can say about him at the moment except it gets a bit nerve-wracking on the basis that he keeps pulling out all the stops every time.
“He’s a most special horse.”
Elliott echoed those comments, telling Betfair: “With a horse like him, it’s always a great thrill every time they run. I suppose there’s always a bit of extra pressure with the likes of him, but at the same time I wouldn’t swap that feeling for anything.
“When he was bought after winning his point-to-point, he was bought with a view to being a top-class chaser and that dream is still alive after his debut over fences at Down Royal last month. He never came off the bridle, which was nice to see, and I was also pleased to see the runner-up from that race go on and run well in a decent race at Naas last weekend.
“From a form perspective I doubt anyone learnt anything about Down Royal, but his chasing technique was efficient and good and that is what you love to see from a horse having their first run over fences.
“It was always the plan to come from Down Royal to Fairyhouse and he has been very well at home since making his comeback. He seems to be the same Envoi Allen as always and he’s just one of those horses that just takes everything in their stride and makes everything look easy.
“The Drinmore will represent another step up the ladder in terms of his chasing career and, while it is a small field, I’m taking nothing for granted, but hopefully he will do what he has always done from day one. We’ve just very lucky to have one like him in the yard.”
Elliott feels Coko Beach deserves his chance, but has it all to do against his stablemate.
“I was very pleased with his first run over fences at Galway last month when he finished a good second to Pencilfulloflead, and that form already looks good with the winner having gone on to win a Grade Two,” said the County Meath handler.
“That run entitles him to take up his engagement here, but I would say he has his work cut out against Envoi Allen.”
Joseph O’Brien provides the only the opposition to the Elliott pair with Assemble and Home By The Lee, who have both yet to taste defeat over fences.
Ballyadam gives Elliott and Cheveley Park another big chance of Grade One glory in the Baroneracing.com Royal Bond Novice Hurdle.
The five-year-old made a most promising hurdling debut when landing an 18-runner maiden event at Down Royal by 12 lengths.
“He’s done very well. He won very cosily at Down Royal and looks a particularly progressive horse,” said Richardson.
“It’s obviously going to be a big test stepping him up, but he certainly looks full of potential.”
Elliott, who also has One Down and The Very Man in the seven-strong field, said: “Our chief hope for this race is Ballyadam. Since he came to us from the point-to-point field, he has looked like a horse with Grade One potential and now is his chance to prove it.
“He ended last season with an impressive bumper win at Downpatrick, after which Jamie (Codd) was very excited by him and you’d have to be impressed with what he showed when winning his maiden hurdle at Down Royal last month.
“He did everything right that day and showed me that this was the obvious race to aim for with him. This race is going to require a career best, but there is plenty more to come from our horse and I’ll be disappointed if he’s not closely involved.”
Elliott knows the task facing his two other runners.
“One Down is a grand horse, who has already won over hurdles this season and he has since posted two solid efforts in defeat,” he said.
“He is up against it here, but he is in very good form and will enjoy the ground, so we will let him take his chance and see if can he pick up some of the minor money.
“The Very Man will be having his last run in novice company as he loses his novice status after this weekend.
“He is a consistent and reliable type who should run his race and I could see him running creditably, but a few of these should be too strong for him.”
Noel Meade’s Cask Mate, Ted Walsh’s Dewcup, the Willie Mullins-trained N’golo and Henry de Bromhead’s Annexation make up the list.