Day 3 featured races quick links:
1. Asterion Forlonge (Paul Townend/Willie Mullins)
Won a Leopardstown Grade 1 as novice hurdler last season prior to finishing fourth in the Supreme, though his tendency to jump violently to his right caused carnage during the run that day. Hasn’t built on his impressive chasing debut, and his jumping issues have looked more serious over fences, falling on two consecutive occasions on his next two starts.
Got round when fourth in a good renewal of the Flogas, but he’d need to improve markedly from that to go well here and he has many questions to answer.
2. Blackbow (Bryan Cooper/Willie Mullins)
Smart bumper performer who has improved for fences after a hugely underwhelming season as a novice hurdler, winning a tidy event at Navan on his first of the season. Soundly beaten by Energumene on his next two starts and his limitations in this sphere are beginning to look exposed.
The step up in trip makes sense, but he’s not top class.
3. Chantry House (Nico De Boinville/Nicky Henderson)
Third in the Supreme last season and looked the type to make a better chaser. Got off the mark in this sphere with a facile win at Ascot on his chasing debut, but was inexplicably poor when beaten at odds-on over course and distance back in December. Bounced back at Wetherby last time, and though his chase form doesn’t amount to much, he still has potential and is capable of hitting the placings.
4. Chatham Street Lad (Darragh O’Keeffe/Mick Winters)
In his second spell novice chasing, having failed to reach any better than fifth in three midsummer Irish events in 2018.
He’s an entirely different proposition nowadays, though, and was pitched back over fences for the first time in over two years when winning a Ballinrobe handicap from a mark of 118 back in October, and has won twice since, including when dismantling a competitive looking Caspian Caviar Gold Cup field here at Cheltenham in December.
Far from disgraced back over two miles last time, but he needs more to take this.
5. Darver Star (Jonathan Moore/Gavin Cromwell)
Hugely progressive last season, beginning the campaign in a Downpatrick handicap from 119 and finishing it with a third in the Champion Hurdle.
Not quite followed up that progress over fences, and was a well beaten seventh in the Irish Arkle last time out. On paper, the step up in trip here should bring about a better showing, and if it does, he’s not the silliest each-way bet.
6. Envoi Allen (Jack Kennedy/Henry De Bromhead)
Remains unbeaten in eleven starts under rules, five of them being Grade 1s, and looks as if he has the potential to become on the sport’s all-time greats.
Has won the Champion Bumper and the Ballymore on the previous two Festival appearances as the potential to be an even better chaser, impressingly particularly with his neat and clever jumping technique.
Tactically versatile and possesses a rare blend of speed and stamina. Almost impossible to see him beat.
7. Fusil Raffles (Daryl Jacob/Nicky Henderson)
Won the Adonis and the Champion Juvenile Hurdle in his first season for Nicky Henderson but couldn’t make his mark in open Grade 1s as a hurdler last season.
Won two novice chases early in the season and bounced back after a shock poor run when upped to this trip last time He’s not faced anything like this calibre of opposition over fences, though, and is probably opposable.
8. Shan Blue (Harry Skelton/Dan Skelton)
Progressive as a novice hurdler last season and finished sixth in the Ballymore. A better chaser this season, jumping brilliantly to win his first three starts, including Kempton’s Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase on Boxing Day. Last his unbeaten record when runner-up on heavy ground in the Scilly Isles, but still produced a creditable effort.
The clear number two on form, and likeliest to take advantage if anything drastic happens to the favourite.
MARSH NOVICES CHASE VERDICT
Aside from the recent stable switch, there is not a stone that can be thrown at Envoi Allen and he should cement his reputation as the most exciting prospect in the sport.
Shan Blue is likeliest to chase him home.