Espoir D'Allen moves into Cheltenham Champion Hurdle contention with impressive Naas showing

Barry Geraghty also hit a remarkable milestone.

Image: Brian Lawless

ALL EYES WERE on Espoir D’Allen at Naas today as Gavin Cromwell’s ace hurdler stepped up his preperation for the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham, for which he was trimmed into a general 14-1 chance with most firms after a taking victory in the Grade 3 Limestone Lad Hurdle.

Ridden by Barry Geraghty, Espoir D’Allen gave weight and a beating to some classy individuals, which should be enough for him to line up beside dual Champion Hurdler and fellow JP McManus-owned Buveur D’Air in the day one showpiece.

This was Geraghty’s 1,876 victory, making him the fourth-most successful jockey in jump racing history.

There were further Cheltenham clues aplenty at this afternoon, and Ballyward galloped his way into the reckoning for staying novice chase honours at all the big spring festivals with victory in the Grade 3 Naas Racecourse Business Club Novice Chase for Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh.

Owned by Andrea & Graham Wylie, Ballyward, who finished fourth in last season’s Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle at Cheltenham, confirmed himself a fine staying prospect with a wide-margin victory.

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