There was one horse on everybody’s lips at the start of this year’s Cheltenham Festival: Envoi Allen. The Gordon Elliot trained 7 year old gelding was the hot favourite to retain his unbeaten status and land the Marsh Novices Chase, with ante-post bets flying in for Envoi Allen after he moved from Elliot’s yard to that of Henry de Bromhead, who was eyeing up the top trainer accolade after picking up wins on Honeysuckle and Put The Kettle On. It was to end disappointingly, however, as Envoi Allen clipped the fourth hurdle and went down under jockey Jack Kennedy. Nicky Henderson’s Chantry House went on to win the race at 9/1 (10, +1000), while Rachael Blackmore continued her march towards the Champion Jockey accolade with another two victories.
Envoi Allen too eager in bid to be the best
With all eyes – and plenty of online bets placed – on the unbeaten Envoi Allen, the Marsh Novices Chase was somewhat of an anti-climax. Running off an RPR of 164 and with Jack Kennedy in the saddle, the writing was on the wall for Allen to make it yet another disappointing race for the bookies at this year’s Cheltenham Festival with another hot favourite victory. The major online sportsbooks hedged their bets on Envoi Allen, with William Hill and many others offering as low as 4/9 (1.44, -225) for de Bromhead’s unbeaten champion-in-waiting.
But it was not to be. Racing in fourth place with Fusil Raffles in the lead, Envoi Allen went at the fences too keenly, clipping the fourth fence and going over into the turf. Both horse and jockey were quick to their feet, but it was a solemn walk for Jack Kennedy who dealt his hopes of becoming Champion Jockey a blow. However, the 21 year old picked himself up to prove his character and deliver an outstanding ride on Mount Ida in the Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase, storming through the field from the back marker to first over the line in a breathtaking finale to the day’s racing.
Rachael Blackmore closes in on Top Jockey award
Rachael Blackmore took advantage of Kennedy’s fall on Envoi Allen by scoring two wins on day three, stretching her lead to two wins going into the final day. Odds on Blackmore clinching the title are shortening fast, who was 10/1 (11.0, +1000) with William Hill before the first race at Cheltenham was run. After day three of the festival she has plummeted at Betfair Sportsbook to 1/6 (1.17, -600), with several top horses to run on the final day, including heavily fancied A Plus Tard in the Gold Cup. Her runaway triumph on Allaho in the Ryanair Chase was bettered by a masterful ride on Telmesomethinggirl in the Mares’ Novices Hurdle, leaving Blackmore pinching herself and on the verge of making history twice in a week. It would take a brave punter to bet against her, with odds on A Plus Tard shortening by the day because of her imperious performances.
In the other races of the day, Danny Mullins rode Flooring Porter to beat both Paisley Park and Sire du Berlais in the Stayers’ Hurdle, and 20 year old Jordan Gainford produced a top notch ride on The Shunter to deliver the Paddy Power Plate Handicap Chase to trainer Emmett Mullins.