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Bookmakers know that defeat for Envoi Allen this week is massive in battle with punters

Not many top-level horses go their career unbeaten but the dream is alive for the Gordon Elliott-trained star, writes Johnny Ward.

Jockey Keith O’Donoghue on Envoi Allen with trainer Gordon Elliott at Cheltenham yesterday.
Jockey Keith O’Donoghue on Envoi Allen with trainer Gordon Elliott at Cheltenham yesterday.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

WILLIAM HILL BE be feeling the pinch a little more than some other firms when it comes to Envoi Allen’s bid to justify the faith of pretty much everyone in the Ballymore Novice Hurdle to open day two.

Hills offer a market on winning at the Cheltenham Festival, taking the doubts about where a horse may or may not run out of it. So those who backed Envoi Allen in this market were not especially bothered in recent days when it seemed very possible he might reroute to the Supreme.

However, Hills offered 8/1 about Envoi Allen winning any race as far back as last summer. This price plummetted as the season went on but the firm’s Jamie McBride is not overstating the importance of his winning or losing.

He said: “In isolation it wouldn’t be the end of the world given the SP will be roughly even money.

“I don’t want to sound like a hyperbolic PR rep but if it were followed up by the likes of a fancied runner in the Queen Mother, Tiger Roll and Appreciate It, clearly it would be a very bad day for bookmakers.”

On a bookmaking level, Wednesday has been put forward as one of the most dangerous days for the firms, as Envoi Allen will be the pivot of many accumulators. In terms of the horse’s future, this will be quite revealing.

I spent much of the last two weeks at Cheltenham Preview nights. I attended six in all. I do not remember anyone opposing Envoi Allen. Which is quite something consdering the bookmakers think he will not win.

He is still available quite comfortably at odds against and, given the promise of Sizing John, The Big Getaway and The Big Breakaway, this is no cakewalk by any means.

However, according to Keith Donoghue, he is the best horse he has ridden. When Eddie O’Leary was consoling himself with the reality of being underbidder for the horse when he cost Cheveley Park £400,000 over two years ago, reality would soon bite.

“When Tom Malone bought him at least, I was thinking, he’ll be sending him to England and he won’t be running against us.”

Instead, he went to Gordon Elliott, Gigginstown’s main go-to trainer.

Hardly any top-level horses go their career unbeaten but the dream is still alive for Envoi Allen. He won his only point to point, his four starts in bumpers (highly unusual) and all three so far over hurdles.

On bare form, he is probably short enough to win the race, but this is arguably the event which will be the hardest to watch for Gordon Elliott all week: he knows he may have a Gold Cup horse on his hands.

Envoi Allen is one of the best looking horses I have ever seen. Maybe that is easy to say after the fact, given how good he is, but he takes your breath away. How good could he be?

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envoi-allen-ridden-by-keith-donoghue Envoi Allen ridden by Keith Donoghue last month at Gordon Elliott's yard. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Most notable about this horse is he only needs to be challenged to pull out more, producing a sensational change of gear in the closing stages of the Cheltenham Bumper last year.

Most of these hyped-up horses fail to deliver. Two years ago stablemate Samcro was being similarly built up. For now, at least, Envoi Allen is without any hole, and bookmakers will know that defeat for the horse in Wednesday’s opener will be massive in the battle this week.

In our piece with 12 celebrities tipping at Cheltenham, a third of them went for Envoi Allen, even if there were 27 other races to concentrate on and at least as many favourites.

For those who got 8/1 that he would win any race, they are sitting pretty. If you want to get 33/1 about him winning the 2022 Gold Cup with William Hill, now might be the time to avail.

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