Envoi Allen does his Cheltenham credentials no harm with Naas win
Envoi Allen maintained his unbeaten record with a stylish display in the Lawlor's Of Naas Novice Hurdle.
Winning for the second time at the highest level over hurdles on just his third outing, Gordon Elliott's star looks sure to be heading back to Cheltenham, where he took last year's Champion Bumper.
Stepping up in trip to two and a half miles for the first time, Davy Russell was content to take a lead from Willie Mullins' Elixir D'ainay until the turn into the straight.
By then it only concerned those two, as even the promising Longhouse Poet could not keep up.
Sent off at the prohibitive odds of 1-4, Envoi Allen briefly had to be nudged along by Russell but running down to the second-last he joined the leader.
On landing he was soon in front and the race was over as long as he jumped the last well and he did just that.
While he was only ever just doing enough in front, the Cheveley Park Stud-owned gelding still won by three and a half lengths.
RaceBets and Betfair trimmed the winner to 11-8 from 13-8 for the Ballymore at Cheltenham, with the former easing him to 4-1 from 5-2 for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle and Betfair leaving him unchanged at 7-1.
Elliott said: "That was a proper test, they went a proper gallop turning past the stands.
"Davy said he learned more today than he ever learned. He jumped well and he just does what he has to do when he gets to the front.
"He'll be entered in everything at Cheltenham. He could go to two miles or go this trip, I couldn't see him going much further.
"We'll try to split them all up and he could go either way.
"I'd say over two and a half he'd find it very easy if you drop him in and ride a race. Over two miles you'd have to be forcing it the whole way.
"I'd say that was a fair race, they went a fair lick the whole way.
"He'll only ever win by a length or two, that's all he ever he does every day he runs."
Asked about a possible tilt at the Champion Hurdle, Elliott said: "He'll be entered in everything at Cheltenham, but I'd imagine we'll keep him in his own grade this year.
"If I was a betting man I'd say we'll keep him in the grade he's in.
"He'll have entries at the Dublin Festival. Whether we go straight to Cheltenham or not, obviously I'll have to discuss that with Chris Richardson and Mr and Mrs Thompson (of Cheveley Park).
"It's great to have horses for them. They are supporting the yard and have a few nice horses with us, so we're very happy."
On the six-year-old's future as chaser, Elliott added: "When you look at the way he jumped two or three of those hurdles, he looks like he's made for fences."