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Envoi Allen continues his relentless march as Dreal Deal points McNally towards Cheltenham

Asterion Forlonge crashes out at the first in eagerly-anticipated Punchestown clash.

Jack Kennedy on board Envoi Allen (file pic).
Jack Kennedy on board Envoi Allen (file pic).
Image: PA

ENVOI ALLEN EASILY extended his unbeaten record with an 11th successive victory under rules after his chief market rival Asterion Forlonge fell at the first fence in the Sky Bet Killiney Novice Chase at Punchestown.

Gordon Elliott’s dual Cheltenham Festival winner was expected to face a telling test in the Grade Three over two and a half miles, in which he had to give 11 pounds to his four rivals on heavy ground.

But that situation never materialised after Willie Mullins’ grey got in close when leading and fell for the second race in a row, bringing down outsider Sempo in the process.

Jack Kennedy and Envoi Allen subsequently led throughout – and although challenged by Joseph O’Brien’s Fils D’oudairies three out and again at the last, the 1-2 favourite eased clear again on the run-in to win by three and a half lengths from the 25-1 shot.

Like many onlookers, Elliott was taken by surprise at the early mishap of Asterion Forlonge.

The County Meath trainer said: “It’s a bit of an anti-climax when the other horse went at the first. Jack said he went around in second gear, with his ears pricked.

“When he asked him to quicken going to the last, he did. He got a bit under the last and quickened again.

“He didn’t mind the ground, and he didn’t do anything wrong. I think he’d be better with a lead because he’s idle, but he had to do his own donkey work.”

Paddy Power, Betfair and Coral all left the Cheveley Park Stud-owned Envoi Allen unchanged at 10-11 for the Marsh Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, while he’s evens with William Hill.

That is likely to be his next race, unforeseen problems with travelling to Cheltenham apart.

Elliott added: “He’s in everything at Leopardstown (Dublin Racing Festival) for fear something happened (with any Covid travelling restrictions) in Cheltenham, but I’d say we will go straight to Cheltenham.

“He’s been to Cheltenham twice and showed he can win around it.”

Kennedy admitted the loose-running Asterion Forlonge and Sempo had presented a challenge.

He said: “The loose horses had my heart in my mouth a few times. They crossed over me, but Envoi Allen is so honest he never took his eye off the fence. He’s unbelievable, and a very clever horse.

“He only really does what he has to do. He was very idle the whole way around in front – but as soon as I sat into the saddle, he put the race to bed.”

Meanwhile, Dreal Deal continued his remarkable winning sequence as he sprang a shock on his first attempt at Grade Two level with victory in the Sky Bet Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle.

Ronan McNally’s six-year-old drifted in the market and was sent off an unconsidered 22-1 shot at Punchestown to post his sixth successive victory, over hurdles and on the Flat.

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But after being held up last early on in the two-mile contest, he surged from well off the pace to lead just after the final flight and prevail by a decisive three lengths from the Willie Mullins-trained Ganapathi, under Denis O’Regan.

Gordon Elliott’s 11-4 favourite Magic Tricks came under pressure leaving the back straight and was eventually last of six finishers.

Dreal Deal’s progress through the ranks has been astounding this season.

The former maiden point-to-pointer began it as an apparently exposed performer, without a victory in 11 attempts under both codes, yet is since unbeaten – having broken his duck over hurdles from a handicap rating of 84 at Navan in September and won here at level weights from a field full of the big yards’ most promising novices.

McNally now has his sights on Cheltenham and the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

He said: “He won’t be going to the Dublin Racing Festival in Leopardstown and will probably go to Cheltenham now. I think he’s entitled to go there now.

“If we have to go for a lesser race in between, we will do that, and if not it will be straight to Cheltenham.

“He will probably go for the Supreme, but he will be entered in the Ballymore as well. That was the dream, but he had to go and do that today.

“He’s done it now – so we can dream!”

O’Regan added: “He can travel real well, but it just takes him a while to get going – and thankfully he got going in the straight. He’d a good jump at the last and won all right in the end.

“He’s definitely entitled to step up into higher company again, and it’s something to look forward to. Well done to Ronan and the team.”

- Updated with results and quotes from the Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle at 14:30

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