Despite suffering an ankle injury following a fall on New Year’s Day, Davy Russell expects to be back in action this weekend when he hopes to ride the exciting Envoi Allen.
Russell parted ways with Column Of Fire at the second-last flight when about to challenge for the lead in the opening maiden hurdle at Fairyhouse on Wednesday and was fired abruptly to the turf at the Meath track.
Please log in or register with Independent.ie for free access to this article.
Precautionary X-rays showed nothing was broken, however, and the 40-year-old is hoping a few days’ rest will speed up his recovery with the high-profile mount on Envoi Allen at Naas on Sunday around the corner.
“I twisted my ankle when I fell. It must have caught in something. We have a few days off now, so hopefully I’ll be back for the weekend,” Russell said ahead of the Naas showpiece.
All eyes will be on Gordon Elliott’s unbeaten six-year-old in the Grade One Lawlor’s Of Naas Novice Hurdle as the Meath trainer steps the Muhtathir gelding up in trip to 2m4f on the track for the first time having landed the Grade One Royal Bond in good style over 2m last time out.
The Ballymore – for which he is already a warm 7/4 favourite – is his most likely target at the Cheltenham Festival in March right now but the Cullentra handler has left all avenues open, including a possible tilt at the Champion Hurdle, as they continue to learn more about his potential.
“It looks like he’s made for two-and-a-half miles. Naas is a great racecourse, there are no excuses there and the best horse normally always wins. It’ll be a great stepping stone towards Cheltenham,” Elliott said.
Meanwhile, Cheltenham could become a five-day festival in the future with Martin St Quinton, the new racecourse chairman at the Cotswolds course, keen to “widen the appeal of racing” during his term.
“We’re very happy with our four-day festival at the moment, but we’re always keen to look at ways of innovating and improving things and widening the appeal of racing,” St Quinton told ITV Racing.
“I wouldn’t rule anything in, but I wouldn’t rule anything out. It would get a lot of opposition, but people don’t like change. People complained when it went from three days to four, but now everybody loves the four-day festival.”
Elsewhere, a tantalising clash between Nicky Henderson’s two-mile supremo Altior and last year’s Tingle Creek hero Defi Du Seuil is on the cards in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot on January 18.
The first four in last month’s Tingle Creek – Philip Hobbs’ Defi Du Seuil, Willie Mullins’ evergreen Un De Sceaux, Ruth Jefferson’s Waiting Patiently and the Henderson-trained Janika – were among eight entries for the €180,000 Grade One contest.