Envoi Allen will be seen by many as the Irish (perhaps whole Festival) banker of the week in the opening race on day two of the Cheltenham Festival.
I am a fully paid up member of the abilities and quality that the horse possesses, and it may seem fanciful to suggest that he will find one too good in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle. But there are factors in play within ante-post betting, that would suggest backing Sporting John at 6/1 each-way with Bet365 NRNB, to be a decent play at this stage.
Factor number one is the weather, as despite a dry(ish) forecast for the next week or so, it would surely only take one or two downpours on the eve of the Festival to turn the ground heavy – in which case Envoi Allen could re-route to the Supreme on day one.
Factor two is the fact that Philip Hobbs has the likely favourite for the Albert Bartlett in the shape of Thyme Hill, suggesting that he would be keen to keep him in that race and not divert him to the intermediate trip – leaving the path clear for the JP McManus’-owned and Hobbs-trained Sporting John to run here.
Factor three is the aforementioned owner, who has another horse to aim at the Supreme, that being the Nicky Henderson-trained Chantry House.
Factor four, the final and perhaps most pertinent point, is the unquestionable ability that Sporting John clearly has – maybe I should have started with this argument, as it surely forms the basis to any horse race!
Even if Envoi Allen gets there fit and well on the day, Sporting John has shown more than enough in his three forays to the racecourse this season, to suggest that he can give Gordon Elliott’s superstar a tough race.
Two simple tasks in lesser class races left the visual impression that he would be a factor when upped in grade. He duly did so when sluicing up in a class 2 novice hurdle at Ascot two weeks ago, in the fastest time on the card. The strong impression is that we haven’t seen anywhere near the ceiling of his latent talent yet – here’s hoping we do next Wednesday.