Nick Luck’s blog: I Love Envoi’s chances in the Mares’ Hurdle

Nick Luck’s blog: I Love Envoi’s chances in the Mares’ Hurdle

Cheltenham Day 1

IL ETAIT TEMPS can set the tone for the week by lifting the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle for Willie Mullins (1.30pm) at 11/2. With the hullabaloo for this race surrounding Facile Vega to the exclusion of all others, there must be value elsewhere. If the ground was good, Marine Nationale would nearly get the vote, but the selection can handle softer and powered through the line at Leopardstown. Facile Vega’s disappointment notwithstanding, this is the best form on offer, and Il Etait Temps is getting better all the time. Tahmuras can run a bold race and hit the frame.

EL FABIOLO is confidently expected to win the Arkle (2.10pm) at 7/4. The bigger-than-expected field – with a couple of pace-pushing outsiders – may mean that Dysart Dynamo’s brisk pace is even brisker, and El Fabiolo has been finishing his races off so well, it is hard to imagine that won’t suit so long as his jumping passes muster. I love Jonbon but didn’t love the way he jumped out to his right at Warwick, and he might be facing a horse that is just beginning to fill his monstrous frame in El Fabiolo.

INTO OVERDRIVE (7/1) and FANTASTIKAS (16/1) will both be getting my support in the Ultima (2.50pm). The former is an obvious enough choice to run well: he’s a classy stayer still on the upgrade who has been able to mix it brilliantly with Sounds Russian and L’Homme Presse in handicap company. There’s nothing of that calibre here, and he’ll gallop on strongly when others have had enough. Fantastikas is much chancier, but he’s just too well handicapped to leave alone: 12 pounds lower than when a fair seventh last year, he’ll relish a test at this trip and has cheekpieces. I could see him bowling along deep into this and hope that the pieces help his application. 

I’m fully expecting CONSTITUTION HILL to win the Champion Hurdle by daylight (3.30pm), and I’m not sure he’s bad price either at 4/11. So long as he’s not physically compromised in any way, he’ll win: it’s just unfeasible that there is more than one horse of his ability in training at the same time. If you’re looking for a more imaginative play, I’d consider a tiny investment on NOT SO SLEEPY in the ‘without Constitution Hill’ market at 50/1, just in case the rain really started to bucket down and there was a meltdown behind the favourite. He’s been fifth in the last two editions, staying on all the while.

LOVE ENVOI (9/1) was my ante-post tip for the Mares’ Hurdle (4.10pm) at around half the price (what a judge), so I can hardly desert her now (particularly as conditions have come in her favour. Admittedly there are now formidable opponents in her way, but I’ll always take an improver at a price. It is fair to suggest Honeysuckle has lost half a step this season, while this a much better race than the one won why Marie’s Rock last year. Epatante is obviously a massive player, too, but this could blunt her pace. Echoes In Rain would be a danger to all if she settled.

PUNTA DEL ESTE might be able to push back the mighty Irish battalions in the Boodles (4.50pm) at 16/1. Of course, he’ll need to do a good bit more than on his British debut, but it was a most eye-catching start, travelling super smoothly on a speed-favouring track, and never really asked for a big effort until after the last, when the bird had flown. That said, he stayed on strongly to the line, and earned the close-up comment “bounded clear” when winning a race on bad ground in the French provinces. I’ll be making sure I don’t lose if BYKER (7/1) wins by saving on him into the bargain. He has much the most compelling profile at the head of the market, and pieces could easily sharpen up this powerful galloper.

MAHLER MISSION looks the likely one for the National Hunt Chase (5.30pm) at 6/1. I just don’t think he should be six times the price of Gaillard Du Mesnil: he jumps really soundly, handles any ground, and looks to be crying out for a proper trip, both on the way he runs and on pedigree. He’s in excellent hands, and no longer has Churchstone Warrior to worry about. 



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14 Mar 2023

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