The road to the winner’s enclosure
BALLYMORE NOVICES’ HURDLE WEDNESDAY 1.20
THE Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle has been the stepping stone for many top-class horses in recent years. Since 2015 alone, Champ, Samcro, Kemboy, Shattered Love, Notebook, Battleoverdoyen and Yorkhill have gone on to win Grade 1s over fences, and that’s before we talk about the careers of the likes of Faugheen and The New One prior to 2015. The 2020 running had a potential superstar heading the market in Envoi Allen. After winning four bumpers, including the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham, the six-year-old started his hurdling career at Down Royal against the promising Front View and the experienced Entoucas, beating the field with ease, before following up with a comfortable victory in the Royal Bond, beating stablemate Abacadabras and Darver Star. A further success, this time at Naas in January, set the son of Muhtathir up for his day at the Cotswolds track, and he did not disappoint. Sent off at a shorter price for the race than Istabraq, Denman and Faugheen, the 4-7 shot was positioned by Davy Russell just behind the leading group as they jumped the first. Shakem Up’arry took the field along to the second before The Big Getaway took over, at a steady pace. The Willie Mullins-trained gelding started to up the tempo after halfway, with Easywork just in behind and Envoi Allen in sixth place. As they came down the hill, Paul Townend tried to catch the field cold and loosened the reins on The Big Getaway, while Russell took the favourite wide to give him space for a clear run. Around the turn the leader was sent for home, with Easywork in second and Envoi Allen four lengths behind in third, but it was only a matter of time as the deficit became a half-length lead jumping the last, before Envoi Allen stormed up the hill for consecutive Cheltenham Festival wins in impressive style.