Cheltenham Festival News

Envoi Allen and Blackmore fly high again in Ryanair Chase

Thu 16 Mar 2023

Full replay: 2023 Ryanair Chase

There was Cheltenham redemption for Envoi Allen who made a triumphant return to the Festival winner’s enclosure by winning the Ryanair Chase.

The Cheveley Park Stud-owned nine-year-old is a winner of both the Champion Bumper (2019) and Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (2020), but suffered an agonising reversal when sent off favourite for the Prestbury Park hat-trick in 2021, unseating his rider early into the Turners Novices’ Chase.

He had to settle for a creditable third in last year’s Champion Chase but back to an intermediate trip for his latest trip to the four-day showpiece, Henry de Bromhead’s charge bounced back to his very best to leave a disappointing showing in the King George at Kempton well in the past.

Always travelling menacingly in the hands of Racheal Blackmore, fortune shone on the Irish raider who was almost down on his nose at the third-last – the same fence evens-money favourite Shishkin made a momentum-stopping blunder.

However, whereas Shishkin was immediately under pressure to hold his position, Envoi Allen was gathered up by Blackmore and soon in the perfect spot to pounce in the home straight.

Eager not to head for home prematurely, the button was pressed approaching the last and the 13-2 winner showed his engine still purrs loudly to stride out to a two-and-three-quarter-length success – with Shishkin bravely rallying for second in the closing stages ahead of Hitman in third.

"A phenomenal week so far," De Bromhead tells Tom Stanley

De Bromhead said: “It’s great for the Thompsons (Cheveley Park Stud) as they are great supporters of ours and the industry. It’s just brilliant.

“I kept saying to Richard (Thompson) that he is as good as he was before he went to Kempton, I was so happy with him before the King George, we really fancied him, but like a few of ours who went to England in the first half of the season, he just never showed up. A Plus Tard (Betfair Chase) and Arctic Bresil (Ladbrokes Trophy) just never ran their races.

“Nothing came to light, A Plus Tard had obvious reasons but not the other two. They were all beaten after four fences. I thought it might have been water and various other bits but anyway we left no stone and whatever we did seems to be working again.

“I was really happy the whole race, but there was a chance he was doing too much. He was jumping so well. Rachael felt early on he might have been doing too much, but then he settled. He’s a class horse. Everyone was delighted with him and I was hoping he would put his best foot forward and he did.”

A Plus Tard defends his Gold Cup crown on Friday in the same colours, and De Bromhead added: “You’d have to be a little more confident after that, but they are all individuals.

“The amount of people, our friends and family who have travelled over, and Michael O’Leary and Ryanair naming the race (Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle) in honour of Jack (de Bromhead), makes this week very special.”

"It's fantastic Henry got that day out of him today," Rachael Blackmore tells Lydia Hislop

Blackmore said: “He travelled and jumped really well today. I thought early on he was in my hands for quite a while – it just took me a while to settle him – but then he switched off going past the stands and he was lovely then, he was lobbing away and I was able to fill him up three out.

“He put in a phenomenal performance, but I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone – he’s a supremely talented horse and it’s fantastic that Henry got the day out of him today.

“Ryanair are so kind to name their mares’ novices’ hurdle after Jack (who tragically died in a pony racing accident), such a kind gesture by them, so it is great to be able to win their race today.

“I actually got a nice clear passage – I didn’t find problems anywhere.”

"That was amazing!" - Richard Thompson of owners Cheveley Park talks to Lydia Hislop

She went on: “He was so disappointing the last day – going to Kempton we were really happy with him, and he was equally as good coming here today, so we were hoping the last day, whatever was wrong, he just didn’t perform, but we’ve been really happy with him all season.

“It’s a great team effort down there in Knockeen and it’s been a tough year for everyone, but everyone in the yard is a properly good grafter and it’s great to be associated with them.

“A Plus Tard hasn’t had the greatest preparation coming into the Gold Cup, but he’s in great form and I’m really looking forward to it.”

Nico de Boinville, jockey of runner-up Shishkin (Evens Favourite), said: “It never really went right from when the tape went up. Even when we were at the start he was just curling up on me a bit and going back on his haunches a bit and over the first two he just wasn’t taking me anywhere. At Ascot I was able to jump and travel and dictate where I wanted to be, whereas this time I was pushed here there and everywhere.

“Davy (Russell, on Fury Road) was trying to push me out into the car park so I had to switch inside him and try and get a run up there. He was hanging a bit left from there and he just wasn’t the same horse as he was at Ascot. We know what he can do so we’ll get him home and check him over and get him absolutely spot on and I’m sure we’ll be going three miles at Aintree.

“It certainly felt a bit like last year over the first two and I was just thinking ‘Oh God’, but all credit to the horse. He’s very genuine, he’s made an error down the hill and he’s managed to sneak back into second. He had every right to be pulled-up or tailed off so he’s a very good horse and we know what he can do on his good days so there will be plenty more to come.”

Paul Nicholls, trainer of third home Hitman, said: "That was probably a career best performance and we are delighted with it. He will now go to Aintree over two and a half miles and I think he will be better suited by the flat track there.”

Mouse Morris, trainer of fourth home French Dynamite, said: "We will see how he comes out of this race and make a decision about what's next. The options are a two and a half mile Graded race at Fairyhouse next month or wait until the end of April for Punchestown."

Cheltenham Festival tips for Friday:

A chance to win £50,000 with Paddy's Pick 5

Lydia Hislop's top tips for day four


How To Bet £20 on Gold Cup Day

Dave Nevison's best bets

Trends and a super stat for every race

The Irish Angle: Johnny Ward's top tips

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