CORK point-to-point fans received a major blow at the weekend as the Ballindenisk and Aghabullogue meetings, scheduled for Saturday and Sunday respectively, were both abandoned.
With weather conditions set to improve, it’s hoped that the region’s first fixture will take place at Carrigarostig next Sunday in the form of the Killeagh Harriers meeting.
There are numerous former point-to-point horses winning on the racetrack, both here and in Britain, quite literally every day of the week. Paul Nicholls experienced a terrific afternoon on Saturday by sending out an astonishing 10, 419-1 seven-timer spread across three tracks; Chepstow, Kempton and Wincanton.
Three of the seven Nicholls horses as in Pozo Emery, Storm Arising and Barbados Buck’s started off in the Irish hunt racing sphere, but none of the trio won a maiden point. Pozo Emery was trained by Robert Tyner when finishing second on his debut in a Kilfeacle five-year-old maiden last season whilst Storm Arising was under the care of Denis Murphy when coming third on his initial career outing in a Belharbour four-year-old maiden in February 2018.
Meanwhile, it was Richard Black that was responsible for Barbados Buck’s when the close relation to Big Buck’s occupied the runner-up berth on his only points start in a Dromahane four-year-old maiden in April 2019.
The fact that this trio, all considerably above-average types, failed to land a maiden point just goes to show the calibre of horses that have been competing ‘between the flags’ in Ireland in recent times.
Last year, 11 ex-Irish point-to-pointers won at the Cheltenham festival with seven of those horses obliging in Grade 1 races at the famed Prestbury Park meeting. This year’s Cheltenham extravaganza takes place from March 16 – 19th and the indications are that some former Irish pointers will be very much to the fore.
Envoi Allen was trained by Colin Bowe for Dungarvan-based veterinary surgeon Walter Connors when winning a Ballinaboola four-year-old maiden in February 2018. The French-bred son of Muhtathir was subsequently bought for £400,000 by bloodstock agent Tom Malone on behalf of Gordon Elliot at a Tattersalls Ireland Cheltenham sale less than two weeks later with Eddie O’Leary as underbidder.
It’s safe to say that £400,000 is a mouth-watering sum for a point-to-pointer, but Envoi Allen has remained unbeaten on his 10 starts to date for Elliot. He has won no less than five Grade 1 races and the Cheveley Park Stud-owned bay cemented his status as one of the bankers at last season’s Cheltenham festival by sluicing home in the Ballymore Properties Novices’ Hurdle, having also won the Grade 1 Festival bumper at the famed Gloucestershire venue the previous year.
Envoi Allen has already won his two starts over fences this term and he had only to do the bare minimum to beat Assemble by eight and a half lengths in the Grade 1 BARONERACING.COM Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse in late November. However, Joseph O’Brien’s Assemble was then well out of contention when falling at the last in the Grade 1 Matchbook Exchange Faugheen Novice Chase won by Colreevy at Limerick over Christmas.
Envoi Allen is now likely to run in a Punchestown novice chase later this month before hopefully traveling to Cheltenham in March for the Grade 1 Marsh Novices’ Chase over two and a half miles. He is bound to give a good account of himself at Cheltenham, but the ‘Marsh’ is also likely to feature another former Irish pointer in Shan Blue.
The Dan Skelton-trained Shan Blue, who won a Turtulla four-year-old maiden point for Andy Slattery in November 2018 prior to being purchased privately for present connections, has been a revelation over fences this winter.
Having developed into a 139-rated novice hurdler last term, Shan Blue was however beaten all of 27 lengths into sixth spot by Envoi Allen in the ‘Ballymore’ at Cheltenham.
Shan Blue has won all three starts over fences this season and his jumping was quite simply breathtaking when beating The Big Breakaway in the Grade 1 Ladbrokes Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton on December 26.
That race was over three miles, but handler Skelton is keen to drop Shan Blue back to two and a half miles at Cheltenham. That would potentially set up an intriguing clash with Envoi Allen. If that materialised, the Marsh Novices’ Chase would be the race of the week for sure at Cheltenham and it’s quite conceivable that Shan Blue could come out on top this time.