Gordon Elliott has no qualms about stepping Envoi Allen up in trip to two and a half miles for the Lawlor’s Of Naas Novice Hurdle.
Owned by Cheveley Park Stud, the Champion Bumper winner has created a huge impression in his two hurdle races to date, already winning once at the highest level in the Royal Bond at Fairyhouse.
“It’s a new trip for him, but he has always looked like a horse that would be comfortable going over that distance,” said Elliott, who was in great form over the Christmas period.
“It has been a great Christmas, and I’m looking forward to starting off the year by running Envoi Allen in a race like this – and fingers crossed it will be a nice start to the year.”
Davy Russell has declared himself fit to partner the unbeaten six-year-old on Sunday, having missed several midweek rides with an ankle problem.
“Envoi Allen is a big, strong horse with a lot of ability,” he said.
“Gordon has done a fantastic job with the horse, and everyone seems happy with him at home.”
Elliott also runs Conflated – while Joseph O’Brien is taking the favourite on with Midnight Run and Anything will Do, the latter a winner of four of his five races.
“Midnight Run won a bumper here and won a maiden hurdle very impressively,” said O’Brien.
“We backed him up in the Royal Bond, where he disappointed us, but we think he’s a very high-class horse.
“It’s a fantastic race, and over the last few years it’s been a great trial for Cheltenham. It will be very difficult to win.”
Martin Brassil will be hoping Longhouse Poet erases the disappointment of stable star City Island’s recent chase debut in the same colours at Leopardstown, where he pulled up after a bad mistake.
“Longhouse Poet won his maiden nicely and he is probably going into the deep end a little in a Grade One against experienced horses,” said Brassil.
“The trip will suit him, and we’ll find out his level on Sunday.
“Naas is a good, honest staying track – and he seems to be that type of horse that wants two and a half miles and a track like Naas.”
Also in the field is Willie Mullins’ promising Elixir D’ainay – who beat Longhouse Poet at Naas – with Mouse Morris running French Dynamite, a taking winner of his only race under rules to date.
“I was surprised by how well he did it for one of mine first time,” said Morris.
“I always like to take my time with them, so if they win first time they are decent.
“He’s jumping off the top bar now. We ran Rule The World in this, and Sams Profile, so I thought we’d run him and see how he fares.
“But he’ll learn more from running in a good, strong Grade One anyway. He’s next year’s horse.”