The big race in Ireland this weekend is the Lawlor’s Of Naas Novice Hurdle on Sunday (14:20), and proven Grade 1 performer Envoi Allen is all the rage to land the spoils and maintain his unbeaten record now stepped up in trip to 2m 4f.
Trained by Gordon Elliott, who has won two of the last three renewals, this six-year-old has won all seven of his career starts.
The first of those came in an Irish point over this distance when he scored by 10 lengths. Envoi Allen then turned into the leading bumper performer in the British Isles last season.
Following victories on his debut under Rules at Fairyhouse and then at Listed level where he beat the re-opposing Midnight Run at Navan, the gelding took the Grade 2 at the Dublin Racing Festival.
He was sent off a well-backed 2/1 favourite for the Cheltenham Champion Bumper, where he ran on gamely and found extra to score by three-quarters of a length from Blue Sari.
The form of that race – his sole start in Britain to date – is very strong indeed.
Champion Bumper and Royal Bond form best in Naas Novice Hurdle
Thyme Hill who was third, and fourth horse home Abacadabras, have come out and won Grade 1 novice hurdles this season.
The son of Muhtathir jumped well and made all on his bow over the smaller obstacles at Down Royal.
He then confirmed Champion Bumper form with Abacadabras in the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse last month.
Envoi Allen proved 1 1/2 lengths to good for his old rival over timber there, and the runner-up went on taste Leopardstown Christmas Festival glory.
Soviet Pimpernel, who was sixth in the Royal Bond, has also come out and landed the Grade 3 Irish Independent Hurdle at Limerick.
The form is again strong and Envoi Allen is thus a leading contender to return to the Cheltenham Festival in either the Supreme or Ballymore come the spring.
This step up in trip could determine his Prestbury Park target.
Envoi Allen’s form is head and shoulders above any of his six rivals in the Lawlor’s Of Naas Novice Hurdle, so short odds of 4/11 with Betfair reflect that.
Regular pilot Davy Russell is again aboard and operating at just under a 30 per cent strike rate in the saddle in the last 14 days at the time of writing.
With stamina assured and the forecast yielding ground no problem, Envoi Allen just cannot be opposed.
Tornado Flyer fancied for hat-trick
Earlier on the Lawlor’s Of Naas Novice Hurdle card is a 2m novice chase (13:20) where Tornado Flyer has leading claims of complete a hat-trick over fences.
Trained by Willie Mullins, this seven-year-old Flemensfirth gelding has speed on the dam’s side of his pedigree.
A Grade 1 bumper winner at the 2018 Punchestown Festival, anything he achieved over hurdles was always going to be a bonus last season.
Connections didn’t mess about with Tornado Flyer over the smaller obstacles, as he’s bred to be a chaser and proved that when winning his debut in this sphere over further here on reappearance.
Although he made a mistake at the seventh fence, he rallied and stayed on well to score by three-quarters of a length.
Tornado Flyer has since followed-up when pitched into Grade 3 company at Navan when down in trip last month.
His run there can be upgraded as he was short of room between the third last and two out, but still found a way through to beat I’m A Game Changer by four lengths.
The third home, Eclair De Beaufeu, had twice run well behind subsequent Grade 1 scorer Notebook. That means the form isn’t too shabby.
This race is a drop in class for Tornado Flyer as Mullins continues to get chase experience into him ahead of those springtime festivals.
If Tornado Flyer is to prove worthy of consideration for tilts at Cheltenham and Punchestown, then he has to be winning this under a 4lb penalty and giving weight all-round.
Odds of 7/4 with Paddy Power say he will do just that and he’s preferred to stablemate Cash Back.
Impressive Punchestown winner Dunvegan rates the main danger to Tornado Flyer here after he had the opposition well strung out on his chase debut.
Good Thyne Tara can go one better
It could pay for punters to double up Mullins runners in the first two races as Good Thyne Tara can go one better now returned to a sounder surface in the 2m mares beginners chase that opens proceedings (12:50).
Although the oldest in this five-runner line-up aged 10, she has by far superior hurdles form to her four rivals.
Good Thyne Tara won a Grade 3 at Leopardstown last Christmas wen giving 10lb and a half-length beating to Elimay.
She went on to be a fine third in Grade 1 mares’ races at the Cheltenham and Punchestown Festivals.
Good Thyne Tara was unlucky to bump into the younger, progressive Sinoria on her chase debut and return to action over 2m 2f at Thurles in November.
While she was beaten 12 lengths by that Henry De Bromhead trained rival, this daughter of Kayf Tara pulled a further 19 lengths clear of the remainder.
This race on Lawlor’s Of Naas Novice Hurdle day doesn’t have a lightly-raced, unexposed sort in it like the winner from Thurles.
The drying ground is a plus for Good Thyne Tara, so it would be no surprise to see her go one better now down in trip.
She also strip fitter for that reappearance run, so it gives her leading claims of victory.
With the opposition not up to much, and Paul Townend once again in the saddle, Good Thyne Tara is 1/2 with Betfred to resume winning ways on just her second start over fences.