Allaho appears to have earned himself a place in Willie Mullins’ Cheltenham Festival squad after running out a decisive winner of the Surehaul Mercedes-Benz Novice Hurdle at Clonmel.
Having filled the runner-up spot in a Listed hurdle at Auteuil last March, the five-year-old was snapped up by Willie Mullins on behalf of leading owners Cheveley Park Stud.
He could only finish fourth when a hot favourite for his Irish debut in a Leopardstown bumper over the festive period, but stepped up a full mile in distance for Thursday’s Grade Three contest – and again headed the market at 100-30.
Allaho travelled powerfully for much of the three-mile journey in the hands of Ruby Walsh, and cruised into the slipstream of the pace-setting Minella Indo rounding the home turn.
The latter briefly looked set to make a race of it after the Mullins runner flattened the second flight from the finish, but Allaho was far slicker at the last and stayed on strongly on the run-in to prevail by four lengths.
Paddy Power cut the winner to 12-1 from 25-1 for the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham, but Mullins is not yet ruling out the shorter Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.
He said: “He is a nice horse, who disappointed me hugely in a bumper at Christmas – compared to the work he had been doing at home. The form did work out, though, and he was green at Christmas – which was the problem.
“We saw it again today – he was very green about getting going to win his race. He had been very free throughout – so to come off a pace like that pulling as hard as he did and pick up, I was very impressed with him.”
Allaho’s exuberance may dictate his Festival target.
“He looks a real chaser in the making, and we ran him in that race to see where to go at Cheltenham,” added Mullins.
“Having gone a mile in that race, I thought if he won that the Ballymore could be the race for him – because he was very free. He’s in that and the Albert Bartlett, and he’ll go straight to Cheltenham now.
“Maybe with that race out of his system, he might settle better the next day.”