Gordon Elliott blew a sigh of relief after Envoi Allen won the opening race on day two of The Festival™ presented by Magners, the G1 Ballymore Novices' Hurdle.
"He was our best chance of the week and everyone was here to see him," said Elliott after Envoi Allen (4/7f) beat his stable companion Easywork (12/1) by four and a quarter lengths, with The Big Getaway (9/1) finishing third a further three and three-quarters of a length in arrears.
Elliott had just been congratulated by his countryman, Colin Bowe, who trained Envoi Allen to win a point-to-point and then sold him for £400,000 at Tattersalls' Cheltenham February Sale to agent Tom Malone. He was acting for David and Patricia Thompson of Cheveley Park Stud, in whose colours Envoi Allen scored today having won last year's G1 Weatherbys Champion Bumper.
Elliott added: "I was nervous the whole way through the race - I watched it with Colin, who trained him to win a point-to-point. I was asking him the whole way 'Will he stay? Will he stay?' and he said that he would definitely stay no bother. If I had picked the wrong race, I was going to blame him.
"This was the big one for the week. He is the people's horse and everyone wanted him to win. He is eight from eight now. I thought Davy had given them too much lead coming down the hill but he knew the horse well - he does what he has to. The horse jumped and stayed.
"He stays, he jumps and was bought to be a three-mile chaser. I think that is what he is going to be, but we will have to discuss next season with his owners. We have a few nice novices, and this one will go to Punchestown.
"In fairness, Colin recommended the horse strongly and a big shout to Tom Malone, who bought the horse. It's a big team effort. We are going to enjoy today and see what happens.
"Easywork is a good horse and I wasn't surprised he ran so well."
Most trainers would be nervous about running the most famous horse in Jump racing, Tiger Roll, but Elliott was looking calm ahead of that horse's appearance in the Glenfarclas Cross-Country Chase. He said: "He's in great order, but the soft ground is a big worry. He's a stone worse on heavy ground than he is on good ground, but he's here, everyone wants to see him and he takes his chance.
"We enjoy Tiger. If he never wins another race it won't matter. He's a horse of a lifetime and we are here to enjoy him."
Envoi Allen was given a 6/1 quote for next year's G1 Marsh Novices' Chase by Paddy Power, who also quote him at 10/1 for the G1 RSA Insurance Novices' Chase and the G1 Racing Post Arkle Trophy.
1.30pm Ballymore Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1)
1 Envoi Allen (Cheveley Park Stud) Gordon Elliott IRE 6-11-07 Davy Russell 4/7f
2 Easywork (Gigginstown House Stud) Gordon Elliott IRE 6-11-07 Rachael Blackmore 12/1
3 The Big Getaway (Marie Donnelly) Willie Mullins IRE 6-11-07 Paul Townend 9/1
Distances: 4¼, 3¾
Tote Win: £1.40 Places: £1.10, £3.20, £2.50 Exacta: £9.60
Gordon Elliott - 27th winner at The Festival
Davy Russell - 23rd winner at The Festival
Envoi Allen has the world at his feet
Some horses can take your breath away and the "Irish Banker" of the meeting Envoi Allen did just that to remain unbeaten following success in the opening contest on day two of the The Festival™ presented by Magners, the £125,000 G1 Ballymore Novices' Hurdle.
Trained by Gordon Elliott, the 4/7 favourite travelled kindly throughout the contest and was shaken up by rider Davy Russell on the approach to the home straight. The six-year-old showed a decisive turn of foot to power up the Cheltenham hill to secure a devastating four and a quarter-length success over stable companion Easywork (12/1) in second.
Victorious at last year's Cheltenham Festival in the G1 Weatherbys Champion Bumper, Envoi Allen is now unbeaten in eight starts, four of those coming in G1 company.
Russell, registering his first winner of the week and a 23rd victory at The The Festival™ presented by Magners overall, said: "Envoi Allen is just a marvellous horse and I am delighted to be associated with him. He has brilliant owners and a fantastic trainer - he is just a marvellous horse.
"We have always liked him and he was very professional at his hurdles.
"It was very dead ground, probably the worst he has encountered and it tested him. We went a good gallop and The Big Getaway and Easywork put me to the test.
"He is a hard one to call because, when he settles, he switches off the engines and runs in neutral for a lot of the race.
"You don't know when to pick him then because, if you set him alight too early, he can do too much. Today was just perfect.
"He is very professional now and when I bent my knees, he had plenty left. He just really enjoyed chasing the other horses.
"Today is a wonderful day and you just have to enjoy these. They are hard to come by and we are going to enjoy it."
Russell was also recording a third success in the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle following First Lieutenant (2011) and Windsor Park (2015).
Tizzard looking ahead to next season with Breakaway
Envoi Allen (4/7f) justified the hype in the G1 Ballymore Novices' Hurdle, but Dorset man Colin Tizzard was thrilled to do his bit for team GB in the opening contest on day two of The Festival™ presented by Magners.
The Big Breakaway (8/1) never looked comfortable in the early stages under his jockey Robbie Power, but plugged on for fourth place, beaten 14 and a half lengths.
Tizzard said: "We were best of the English weren't we? He looks more of a stayer and the three in front of him were a year older - you only had to look at the six-year-olds beforehand to see they were bigger and stronger than him.
"He's a beautiful young horse and he kept going right to the line.
"We cannot hold him back two years from chasing surely, so he will likely jump a fence next year."
This was confirmed by the thrilled owners Eric Jones, Geoff Nicholas and John Romans, who were looking forward to Slate House in the G1 RSA Insurance Novices' Chase, the next contest on day two. They said: "We could go up to three miles now at Aintree, then dream for next year when he jumps a fence."
Easywork (12/1) finished second - beaten four and a quarter lengths - to post a one-two for trainer Gordon Elliott and his pilot, Tuesday's G1 winning jockey Rachael Blackmore, who reported after the race: "He ran well, just ran a bit free in my hands, but ran well."
A further three and three quarter lengths back in third place was The Big Getaway (9/1), another frustrating near miss for Willie Mullins and Paul Townend.
Going after the first race
Davy Russell, jockey of the 4/7 favourite and winner Envoi Allen, said: "Soft and very dead."
Rachael Blackmore, partner of second-placed Easywork (12/1), said: "It is tough."
Paul Townend, on board third The Big Getaway (9/1), said: "Very dead."
Noel McParlan, on board Decor Irlandais, said: "Very dead."
Harry Cobden, rider of Getaway Fred, said: "It is very very dead - hard work."
Mark Walsh, jockey of Longhouse Poet, said: "It is gluey and very dead."
Daryl Jacob, rider of Shakem Up'Arry, said: "Very tacky."
Harry Skelton, partner of Shan Blue, said: "Soft, heavy ground. Very tacky and dead."
Nico de Boinville, on board Son Of Camas, said: "Soft dead ground. Harder work than yesterday."
Barry Geraghty, rider of Sporting John, said: "Tacky - very tacky."
Robbie Power, jockey of The Big Breakaway, said: "Dead."