Andy Gibson's Eyecatchers: Love Envoi, Afadil plus five others to watch

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Spotting winning and losing efforts that may be underestimated or overestimated in the future can be key.

Below are notes on seven horses that Andy Gibson believes put up noteworthy performances from the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival.

They are kept in this format for members of and for all readers wishing to save them in an A-Z file or in a Tracker service.

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  • 14th March 2023 - Ultima Handicap Chase

Happygolucky remains a consistent and reliable type despite this heavy-looking defeat that saw him up with the pace, which gave him no chance whatsoever. He was the last of the front runners to drop away and can be seriously marked up accordingly, and was still vying for third place jumping two out before weakening rapidly from thereon in. His long absence followed by his two latest apparently disappointing performances disguise his abilities and he will be of real interest on a soft surface over three miles in the future. Maybe the Coral Trophy would be flying too high, I am not sure, so another tilt at the Rehearsal on the same day could be a more appropriate plan, followed by the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster in January.


  • 14th March 2023 - Ultima Handicap Chase

A mistake four out followed by a big and slow leap at the water jump resulted in Nassalam dropping away from his tracking position, although maybe this was no bad thing, given the way the leaders all dropped away from the top of the hill. Either way we remain in the dark regarding the extent of his stamina, but the way he performed over an intermediate trip round here in November and January strongly suggested he would appreciate a step up in trip. However, his performance here has neither confirmed nor denied that possibility, and I certainly would not be ruling him out in a similar race based on one performance, as I have felt he has been well handicapped for some time. He is best on very soft ground and hopefully his price next time will compensate for any doubts we may hold about his reliability after this tame-looking performance.

Good Boy Bobby

  • 14th March 2023 - Ultima Handicap Chase

Good Boy Bobby is another to have competed too close to the overly aggressive pace, and his two recent performances do rather disguise the quality of his Haydock run in November. I am very hopeful that he will turn out to be much better than his current 137 rating and I am confident he will benefit from being dropped more quickly due to his age. He qualifies for veteran races now and would be very interesting in a qualifier. In addition, the final in January at Sandown would be an obvious target for him.

Love Envoi

  • 14th March 2023 - Mares' Hurdle

There is every chance of Love Envoi being overestimated on the back of this second-place finish to such a highly regarded mare. The slow pace was in her favour and probably played a part in narrowing the margin of her defeat. She finished approximately where she should have done with the 145-rated third mare to finish, Queens Brook, who was also advantaged by racing prominently. Love Envoi has now been raised to 153 which will do her future career no harm at all, but in the short term it will hopefully lead to her trading shorter than she should.


  • 14th March 2023 - Fred Winter Handicap Hurdle

Afadil was outpaced on the inside and going nowhere down the hill immediately after the second last hurdle. From thereon in he rallied up the hill in fine style passing four rivals in the closing stages to finish a staying on eighth. He did not enjoy the best preparation for this race, given the way he was quickly brought back to race at Haydock to qualify him for the Boodles. Maybe he will be better again with a kinder prep, I am not sure, and equally possible, he will benefit from a stronger pace and/or an extra half a mile.

Sir Allen

  • 14th March 2023 - Fred Winter Handicap Hurdle

Where to start with this performance! Sir Allen dropped towards the rear after a very poor jump at the second hurdle and managed to hit more hurdles than jump cleanly from that point onwards. On balance he did extremely well to come through from an unpromising position to challenge wide at the third last hurdle. Once again his jumping let him down before he dropped right out of contention to finish in 11th position. His previous races offered few clues as to any vulnerability in his jumping so until we see something similar again I would err on the side of the big field and his early error putting him off. This is a common trait when considering inexperienced juveniles in this race, so I would not be too concerned about this matter for now. On the other hand, I would want to see some compensation in his odds on another day to allow for the possibility of a repeat performance. His form from Naas last time out has worked out tremendously well here, strongly supporting the likelihood of him being a lot better than his finishing position would suggest.


  • 14th March 2023 - Fred Winter Handicap Hurdle

After becoming excited in the preliminaries and consequently over-racing in the early stages, Tekao then lost his prominent position and briefly looked in danger of dropping right away. However, he was soon travelling well again just in behind the leaders and looking dangerous when being knocked sideways at the third last hurdle. I am not certain how big a part he played in that chance-ending incident and how much he was the innocent party. Either way, his performance provided an equal mix of concern over his temperament and recognition of his ability. Just the kind of horse to let the market be the guide on another day.

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