Three Irish point-to-point graduates recorded graded success at the Cheltenham Festival last year, and a number of exciting National Hunt recruits from that sphere are aimed at the four-day meeting again.
Which former pointers could follow in the hoofprints of Envoi Allen, Topofthegame, Minello Indo this year?
Below are three former Irish point-to-point graduates to keep an eye out for at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival.
Willie Mullins won the Supreme novices' hurdle with Klassical Dream 12 months ago and has another leading contender for this renewal of the two-mile contest in Asterion Forlonge. The six-year-old was bought by Willie Mullins for €290,000 off the back of a six-length point victory at Oldtown in 2018 for Pat Doyle.
Asterion Forlonge is unbeaten in three subsequent starts under rules for Champion trainer Mullins, progressing through a Thurles bumper and Naas maiden hurdle. He was then stepped up into Grade 1 company and in trip to two-miles at Leopardstown when getting the better of the favourite Easywork by nine-and-a-half lengths.
That progressive profile and undefeated streak saw Asterion Forlonge shoot to prominence in the Supreme betting. A duel with Gordon Elliott’s also unbeaten former points graduate Envoi Allen, who the bookies have made favourite, could be one of the clashes of the Cheltenham Festival.
Another #IrishPointer remains unbeaten by winning a Grade 1 with ASTERION FORLONGE, putting up a big performance to win the Chanelle Pharma Novice Hurdle.— p2p.ie (@irishp2p) February 2, 2020
He won his 4YO Maiden at Oldtown for Pat Doyle's @SuirviewStables https://t.co/ftXvRYJtHo
Co. Waterford trainer Henry De Bromhead comes into the Festival with real momentum as he has a strong team of performers backing him, one of which includes star mare Honeysuckle.
The daughter of Sulamani is another ex-pointer who has preserved her unbeaten record since beginning her career under rules and holds entries in both the mares’ hurdle and champion hurdle.
A winner of her debut point-to-point at Dromahane for Jerry Cosgrove back in 2018, she was subsequently sold for €110,000 at the Punchestown Festival sale, before going onto enjoy a successful novice season over hurdles.
During the 2018/19 season she highlighted herself as a versatile and consistent individual winning over a range of different trips but due to a minor setback was unable to make her festival debut, however, she ended up landing her first Grade 1 success at Fairyhouse in April.
The six-year-old has since added two more Grade 1 successes to her CV and has now proven form against the best two-milers in Ireland, despite having a glowing record connections are favouring the longer trip of the mares hurdle and a potential clash with another superstar mare in Benie Des Dieux.
A third Grade 1%uFE0F%u20E3 for Honeysuckle who wins the €200,000 Irish Champion Hurdle, her seventh win since winning her 4YO Maiden P2P for Jerry Cosgrave.— p2p.ie (@irishp2p) February 1, 2020
It was Grade 1%uFE0F%u20E3 number two for Notebook in the Arkle & a dominant Grade 2 Bumper win for Appreciate It.#IrishPointers https://t.co/36BIAzfoi1
Colin Tizzard has gone close to victory at the Festival with Lostintranslation. The eight-year-old was second to Defi De Seuil in the 2019 JLT Novices Chase by only two-and-a-quarter lengths and the year before that finished seventh in the Supreme Novices Hurdle.
Although the son of Flemensfirth has never found success at the Festival meeting he has proven on several occasions that he is a top-class performer with Grade 1 successes such as the Betway Mildmay novices´ chase at Aintree and the Betfair chase at Haydock under his belt.
His run in the King George at Kempton during Christmas was disappointing, having pulled up, but the Flemensfirth gelding has had his wind tweaked since then with a soft palette operation. He also only landed his Grade 1 success at Haydock three weeks previous to that which seemed to have taken a toll on him.
Lostintranslation holds only one entry at the Festival in the Gold Cup, yet the Tattersalls Farm graduate’s form has been over shorter two-mile trips and most recently over three-mile trips, so there is a question mark about that extra couple of furlongs up the hill which takes a lot of getting. The eight-year-old seems to thrive on good to soft ground, so if the ground suits him on the day he could just travel into it and be bang there at the last.
The Gold Cup looks a three-way dance on paper between Al Boum Photo, the highly-regarded English point winner Santini and Delta Work - the best staying novice in Ireland. However, Lostintranslation is not far behind them in the market at 6/1 and could just prove to be one of their biggest threats.