Ballymore Novices' Hurdle Preview: Easywork the value play

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Envoi Allen is a red-hot favourite for the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle.
Envoi Allen is a red-hot favourite for the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle.

Following the release of the entries for the 2020 Ballymore Novices' Hurdle earlier in the week, Lewis Tomlinson has taken a detailed look at those bidding for Grade 1 glory on Day Two of the Cheltenham Festival and has picked out his best ante-post bet for the race...

With four wins in bumpers and three over hurdles (plus a point-to-point success to boot), Envoi Allen has been utterly flawless in his career so far, and is already as short as even money in places to extend his unbeaten record to nine out of nine.

Last season’s Champion Bumper hero has been imperious thus far, so much so that calls for a tilt at the Champion Hurdle have emanated from some quarters, though this race looks to be his likeliest Festival destination

Envoi Allen doesn’t appear to possess the sort of flashy turn of foot that could see him put a race to bed in a number of strides, but he is a relentless galloper with a seemingly infinite number of gears. When other horses look to be giving everything, Envoi Allen seems barely out of his comfort zone, as if he knows full well that he is in complete control of the race unfolding around him.

Gordon Elliott’s star ranks as the most exciting young prospects in the sport, though his dominance in the market means there are several interesting runners away from the favourite that are available at attractive each-way prices.

Gordon Elliott's Cullentra House may also be the home of the horse who could pose the biggest threat to Envoi Allen in Easywork, who claimed the scalp of the smart bumper performer Mt Leinster on his hurdling debut, before showing more improvement when stepped up to two-and-a-half miles at Limerick on Boxing Day.

That effort was a pure demolition job of two useful types in the form of the Willie Mullins-trained pair of Unexcepted and the twice Festival-placed Discorama, with both being in close proximity to the winner rounding the home turn, before he showed a turbo-charged change of gear to power away from his rivals and win the race by 22 lengths. Given what we know about the form of the experienced Discorama, as well as the fact that Unexcepted has been given an opening mark of 137, means there's plenty of substance to that form - and considering that there could be more to come from him yet, he makes plenty of appeal as an each-way proposition.

Another potential Irish contender is Latest Exhibition, who dented the reputation of Elliott’s other high-profile point purchase Andy Dufresne at Navan in December - and that rival is perhaps the most notable absentee from the Ballymore entries. Paul Nolan’s gelding showed grit in abundance when taking that Grade 2 prize, and won’t be knocked around wherever he turns up at the Cheltenham Festival, be it this or the Albert Bartlett. 

The market suggests that the British contingent will be headed by Challow Hurdle winner Thyme Hill, who finished third behind Envoi Allen in the Champion Bumper last season. Thyme Hill has proved himself to be equally talented over hurdles so far, with three graded wins to his name already this season.

His connections also have the dilemma of whether to run here or in the Albert Bartlett, a race for which he currently heads the betting for, and given that Envoi Allen was clearly superior last season, the three-mile event may be the preferred target for this likeable and straightforward gelding.

Colin Tizzard’s unbeaten five-year-old The Big Breakaway has been doing his winning away from the big stage, though the visual impression he’s created has suggested he could also be straight out of the top drawer.

The Big Breakaway was due to step into graded company in the Ballymore Trial at Cheltenham last weekend, though injury intervened, and stablemate Harry Senior was victorious in his place.

Colin Tizzard’s immediate suggestion post-race was that Harry Senior was likelier to step up in trip for a tilt at the Albert Bartlett, though plans for The Big Breakaway, who may now head straight to the Festival, remain up in the air.

He’s looked mightily talented in his two starts for Tizzard so far, accounting for Blackjack Kentucky and Papa Tango Charly, both rated in the high 120s, without ever being asked for maximum effort. This relentless galloper is another with the Albert Bartlett in consideration, and shouldn’t have any issue with an increased trip, yet also looks pacy enough to make his mark felt in graded company if connections opt to keep him over two and a half miles.

Tizzard will also have to make a decision about runaway Tolworth Hurdle winner Fiddlerontheroof, beaten in the Persian War by Thyme Hill earlier in the season, though surely the alternative for him would be the Supreme as opposed to the Albert Bartlett. However, with plenty of these likely to head elsewhere, it's Easywork who makes plenty of appeal as an each-way proposition.

Selection

Ballymore Novices' Hurdle, Cheltenham Festival, Wednesday 11th March 2020 - back Easywork each-way at 10/1

Tip

Ballymore Novices' Hurdle
Easywork silk

Easywork (EW)

Easywork showed a useful set of rivals a devastating change of gear to romp to victory at Limerick on Boxing Day. The looks his likeliest Festival destination, which can’t be confidently said for many of the ante-post protagonists in this market, so makes serious each-way appeal when still available at a double figure price.

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