A defence of the Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal could be next on the agenda for Envoi Allen following an underwhelming reappearance at Gowran Park last month.
A three-time Cheltenham Festival winner, having won the 2019 Champion Bumper, the 2020 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle and last season’s Ryanair Chase, the Cheveley Park Stud-owned gelding is clearly a top-class operator, but has become increasingly difficult to predict over the past couple of years.
The nine-year-old made a successful start to last season at Down Royal, one of eight Grade One victories on his CV, but is set to return to Northern Ireland on another recovery mission having been beaten into third behind Easy Game in the PWC Champion Chase a couple of weeks ago.
“He was a bit rusty (at Gowran) and as we know with Envoi, he can occasionally throw in a disappointing run and then he comes back and shows us how good he is,” said Cheveley Park director Richard Thompson.
“He won two Grade Ones last season and you’d very much hope he’ll come on for that last run. It was a bit disappointing, but he’s given us eight Grade One wins and is a three-time Cheltenham Festival winner, so he’s been a marvellous horse to own and owes us nothing.
“I think that’s where he’ll probably go next (Down Royal), he seemed to enjoy that last year.”
Another Cheveley Park star with a point to prove this term is Envoi Allen’s stablemate A Plus Tard.
The nine-year-old was a sensational winner of the 2022 Cheltenham Gold Cup for Henry de Bromhead, but a listless display when bidding for back-to-back victories in last season’s Betfair Chase set the tone for a bitterly disappointing campaign.
He was pulled up again in the Gold Cup in March and while a third-placed finish behind Shishkin in the Aintree Bowl was a small step in the right direction, Thompson admits only time will tell whether he can return to his brilliant best.
He added: “He obviously had some issues last season and it didn’t go according to plan. He’s had some work done on him over the summer, I won’t go into specifics as I won’t be able to be technical about it.
“We’ll have to give him a run and see where he’s at, because although we had excuses in the Gold Cup, where he was impeded, and we had the issue before he was due to run in the Savills Chase and his bloods were wrong after the Betfair Chase, he was a tired horse after he ran at Aintree.
“We need to make sure he’s in good shape when he comes out for his first run and take it from there in terms of what sort of campaign he’ll have. We need to see how he runs first time out.”
Allaho, a dual winner of the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham for Willie Mullins, has been sidelined by injury since a dominant success in the 2022 Punchestown Gold Cup – but appears to be on the comeback trail.
“All is good with him, as far as I’m aware,” said Thompson.
“I can’t give you any recent details because we’re waiting for Willie to give his view on the programme and I haven’t heard any word recently.”