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Cheltenham 2020: Shishkin, Envoi Allen, Easysland, Saint Roi

17 Mar | BY Chad Yeomans | MIN READ TIME |
Cheltenham 2020: Shishkin, Envoi Allen, Easysland, Saint Roi

Chad Yeomans singles out the best of the best, including potential future stars of the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, Betway Champion Chase and Gold Cup.

Shishkin

I was very vocal in the lead up to the Festival about how I thought Shishkin would find Cheltenham’s undulations a hinderance rather than a help in his novice hurdle season.

However, I’m happy to be proved wrong by a horse that appears to be a potential superstar.

I’d be lying if I said that, at halfway down the back straight, I wasn’t smugly smiling to myself, thinking: ‘I knew I’d got this right’ – only to then witness him quicken twice and outstay a strongly-travelling Abacadabras, who was played late under Davy Russell during a ride that would have been described as magical in most other years.

Shishkin was shuffled back early on and was very nearly brought down at one stage, at which point victory appeared to be out of the question. To then come around the wide outside and outstay his nearest rival as they flew up the hill was seriously impressive.

I’m now convinced that this horse is something special and, as Altior approaches the latter years of his career, Nicky Henderson seems to have unearthed a successor. It certainly wouldn’t surprise me if, in 2022, he is lining up for the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase.

Envoi Allen

Much is expected of every horse who comes to Cheltenham but, when they arrive with a lofty reputation and an odds-on price tag, the stakes are even higher.

Yet Envoi Allen lived up to his billing as the Irish banker. He carried all before him and really does look to have the world at his feet. He’s an absolute machine and I was so impressed with his jumping, too.

He leapt like some of the finest two-mile hurdlers – barely leaving an inch between him and the hurdle and merely flicking through the top of each flight. In doing so, you never lose any ground or momentum, and your rivals are always on the back foot.

He did look as if he going to be hard-worked as they turned for home, but once Davy Russell gave him a squeeze, he took off and put the race to bed in a matter of strides.

He was starting to overheat in the winners’ enclosure, so the race may have taken more out of him than you think, but it will be exciting to see where his connections opt to go with him next year.

Personally, I’d love to see him over fences.

Easysland

Beating Tiger Roll in a race that he’s won for the past two years, at a Festival where he’s won five times in total, is no mean feat – and to do so in the style that Easysland managed is even more impressive.

Being purchased by JP McManus following his victory at Cheltenham in December was the sign enough to be sure that this horse was talented.

However, in the Cross Country last Wednesday, he looked like a monster of a horse who never gave his backers a moment of doubt.

He can come back and win this race for years to come, if he so wishes, but I have a feeling that his connections will be aiming a little higher after this and we may even see him campaigned for the Gold Cup.

Ferny Hollow

Bumper horses with huge reputations will often let you down. That’s just the way it goes.

Not every hype horse can live up to the buzz that surrounds them in the early stages of their career, and, in this game, there will be a lot more disappointments than successes.

Ferny Hollow was a name that often came up in season previews as the autumn began to set in last year.

He started his bumper career with two defeats when starting as an odds-on favourite in December, but got off the mark in good style at Fairyhouse in February and came to the Festival as his stable’s second string.

He was switched off and held up early by Paul Townend in a race where they often go at a frantic pace, letting the other horses do the hard work. And, as the race started to unfold, he looked as if he was going to have to play for second place behind stablemate Appreciate It, who was absolutely tanking as they turned for home.

But Ferny Hollow found a turn of foot I’d not seen from him before to pull away at the end of the race. I’d love to see him campaigned over two miles next season and think he’d be tailor-made for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

Saint Roi

You could write pages and pages about how good Barry Geraghty was last week. He simply didn’t put a foot wrong in any race.

He was perfectly placed, got his horses switched off and travelling and, bar Defi Du Seuil, who clearly wasn’t right on the day, had a superb week – only narrowly missing out on the trophy for leading jockey.

His ride on Saint Roi was textbook for Cheltenham but, to pull it off, you do need the horse underneath you – and, my, did he have that in the County Hurdle.

Saint Roi came into the race as the unexposed horse, who could either have loads in hand or nothing in hand at all. It turned out to be the former.

He travelled, he jumped slickly, and he quickened up past some very experienced and higher-rated horses, suggesting he could be right out of the top drawer.

Under the care of Willie Mullins, the five-year-old, owner by JP McManus, is only going to keep improving.

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Chad Yeomans

Betway’s PR Manager and horse racing expert who can often be found at various racecourses around the country.

Chad Yeomans

Betway’s PR Manager and horse racing expert who can often be found at various racecourses around the country.