Envoi Allen bids to justify big reputation in Champion Bumper
Predictions of future Gold Cup glory have been made about Elliott’s unbeaten star
Jamie Codd riding Envoi Allen to victory in the Matheson I.N.H. Flat Race at Leopardstown in February. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images
It’s 14 years since a favourite has won the Weatherbys Champion Bumper but a lot of fingers will be burned if Envoi Allen can’t land Wednesday’s festival finale.
Since predictions of future Gold Cup glory have already been made for Gordon Elliott’s unbeaten star, there’s a lot riding on him living up to his billing.
Of course such forecasts are part and parcel of the game and almost invariably a lot more unreliable than meteorological fears about high-winds affecting the Day Two festival card in the first place.
Nevertheless, the investment in Envoi Allen’s future has already gone a long way past the £400,000 Cheveley Park Stud paid out to buy the horse.
Every step he’s taken since has flint-eyed horsemen like Elliott and jockey Jamie Codd dreaming big.
The expensive purchase price was after a single point-to-point victory which was impressive enough to provoke a bidding war at last year’s Cheltenham January Sale.
Now the giant French-bred is back at Cheltenham on the back of three racecourse bumper wins that have added significant substance to the reputation.
Considering the Champion Bumper is designed to identify future festival championship winners it could use a reputational boost itself.
Introduced in 1992 as a National Hunt equivalent to flat racing’s top two year old races, it has yet to produce a Gold Cup or Champion Hurdle winner.
It has produced genuine stars like Florida Pearl and Cue Card, heralded superb looking talents like Dunguib that ultimately fizzled out, and by the highest festival championship standards still has something to prove.
Admittedly the nature of the race might have something to do with that. It can be a rough big-field event that catches out inexperience.
From a punting point of view trying to predict the performance of young horses with limited experience can be a problem too.
Just four favourites in all have won. Even Willie Mullins’s dominance – which sees him trying to win it for a tenth time on Wednesday – has been built on a pair of 25-1 winners including Relegate a year ago.
Envoi Allen is the sort of big reputation that this race has punctured over the years but it could be different this time. Soft ground will be a plus. So will a smaller than usual 14-strong field. It means the worry about a big callow prospective steeplechaser getting swamped is reduced. And his size will only be a help in any crosswind!
So if a huge future is anticipated for Envoi Allen his Wednesday present shouldn’t be too shabby either.
Elliott had three winners on Day Two in 2018 and the Cross-Country champion Tiger Roll will be a hugely popular fancy to defend his title.
Victory will be a fourth festival success for the Grand National hero and he’s here on the back of a surprise 25-1 Grade Two win over flights that would have justified him a place in Thursday’s Stayers Hurdle.
Even on a softer than ideal surface that sort of quality looks like making the diminutive star hard to beat.
Delta Work looks to boast rock-solid credentials for the RSA Chase. A dual-Grade One winner and unbeaten over fences, his Drinmore form in December could hardly have been boosted more by Le Richebourg. He’s ground versatile and is a proven festival winner over flights.
Those sort of credentials put those of most of his rivals in the shade. The Worlds End may emerge as the best of them.
Battleoverdoyen will be another major Elliott fancy in the Ballymore Novices Hurdle and the mainstay of a nine-strong Irish challenge to the principal home hope, Champ.
The Gigginstown hope was impressive in a Grade One at Naas in January when Sams Profile was almost three lengths behind him.
Mouse Morris’s horse needs to step up his jumping based on that evidence. However considering he did a lot wrong on that occasion Sams Profile did well to get as close as he did.
Morris won the race with First Lieutenant in 2011. There’s other ample evidence since his first festival win as a trainer 36 years ago that Morris can get them to peak at the right time here.
Last year’s winner Bleu Berry is back for another go at the Coral Cup and is one of half a dozen Willie Mullins runners. Scarpeta could emerge as the best of them if brushing up his jumping compared to his last start.
Cheltenham tips: 1.30- Sams Profile 2.10- Delta Work 2.50- Scarpeta 3.30- Altior 4.10- Tiger Roll 4.50- Band Of Outlaws 5.30- Envoi Allen (Nap)
Nap and Double: Envoi Allen & Delta Work