Fairyhouse preview: Honeysuckle and Envoi Allen put perfect records on line

Sat 28 Nov 2020

Honeysuckle is reported to be in good heart as she bids for back-to-back wins in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse on Sunday.

Trained by Henry de Bromhead, the mare has yet to taste defeat in a point-to-point and eight races under Rules.

She won the Irish Champion Hurdle over two miles last season before coming out on top in a great battle with Benie Des Dieux in the Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in March.

“We’re looking forward to it, she seems in good form and Henry seems happy with her, so let’s hope she’s got plenty of sparkle left,” said Peter Molony, racing manager for owner Kenny Alexander.

“So far two and a half miles has looked her ideal trip – it’s certainly her strongest form anyway. She won a Hatton’s Grace and the Mares’ Hurdle over it last year, but she’s fine over a strongly-run two miles as well.

“I’d imagine, all going well, she’d go on from here to the Irish Champion again and then we’ll make up our minds where we go (which race at Cheltenham) after that.”

Rachael Blackmore will once again team up with the star mare.

Stayers’ Hurdle runner-up Ronald Pump is Honeysuckle’s main challenger on official ratings after he chased home Lisnagar Oscar in March.

Matthew Smith’s stable star fell at the last in the Lismullen Hurdle won by Sire De Berlais on his return when not completely finished with.

“He was fine after it, which was the main thing,” said Smith. “He’s very good over three miles, but there’s nothing for him until Christmas, he’s not a slow horse either.

 Honeysuckle and Blackmore are 8/8 together
Honeysuckle and Blackmore are 8/8 together

“It’s the first time he hasn’t worn ear plugs for a long time, he’s not as excitable as he once was and hopefully they might make him a bit sharper as well.

“Honeysuckle is a very smart mare, we know that, but if our lad is in the form he was at Cheltenham, he’d have a chance.

“We’re building towards going back in March. There’s a race for him at Leopardstown over Christmas and they are great races to win, but they are also stepping stones to Cheltenham as we know that suits him.

“For now it will be hurdles all the way – there’s not much point going back chasing as he’s a very good staying hurdler and there aren’t too many.”

Gordon Elliott fields two of the seven runners with Jack Kennedy on Fury Road and Mark Walsh on Cracking Smart.

Fury Road was only beaten a neck by Monkfish in the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham and won on his return in a Grade Two at Punchestown.

“Fury Road came out of his recent win at Punchestown in great shape,” Elliott told Betfair.

“He is very well in himself and it will be interesting to see how he gets on here as I think the trip might be a little on the sharp side for him, but he is a horse with a high cruising speed and I don’t think he needs a stamina test to be seen at his best.

“He’s got a bit of work to do to get involved, but I think he could show up well.”

Cracking Smart won the Boyne Hurdle last season, but on all known form looks up against it in this company.

“Cracking Smart is quite an idle horse and over the last couple of seasons I’ve noticed that he’s not really at his best until the spring time, so he is best watched for the time being I would say,” added Elliott.

“He would have needed his comeback in the Lismullen Hurdle when he was well beaten when falling and he has come forward for that run, but in reality he has it all to do here.”

The two Elliott runners are owned by Gigginstown House Stud, who are also represented by Noel Meade’s Beacon Edge who steps up in class after impressing twice already this season.

Willie Mullins runs Bacardys and the veteran Supasundae represents Jessica Harrington.

Envoi Allen puts unbeaten record on line

Ruby Walsh was a huge fan of Envoi Allen's chasing debut

All eyes will be on Envoi Allen as the exciting prospect bids to confirm the impression of his impressive fencing debut in the Drinmore Novice Chase.

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.

 Envoi Allen has been flawless over hurdles and fences (Pic: Focusonracing)

“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 faces big test up in trip

Ruby Walsh reflects on Ballyadam's hurdling debut

Ballyadam gives Elliott and Cheveley Park another big chance of Grade One glory in the 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.

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“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.

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