Allaho dominated the Ryanair Chase for two successive years at the Cheltenham Festival, but the Willie Mullins-trained inmate missed all of the 2022/23 season and will have to rebound next term.
Allaho was the ante-post favourite to become the first three-time winner of the Ryanair Chase before a setback ruled him out. His crown was inherited by the Henry De Bromhead-trained Envoi Allen in the Cotswolds.
Still quite lightly-raced and just nine-years-old, Allaho will likely be back in action come the winter and aiming to wrestle back his crown come the spring of 2024.
|Where||Cheltenham Festival, Cheltenham Racecourse, Gloucestershire|
|When||2.50, Thursday 14th March, 2024|
|How to watch||bet365 Sports Live Streaming, ITV& Racing TV|
|Odds||Allaho 5/1, El Fabiolo 5/1, Jonbon 5/1, Shishkin 8/1, Envoi Allen 8/1|
The Ryanair Chase was added to the Cheltenham Festival programme in 2005 and Allaho is one of only two repeat winners of the intermediate contest.
Albertas Run, in 2010 & 2011 for Jonjo O'Neill and AP McCoy, is the only horse previously to have won multiple renewals.
The race has grown in stature as the years roll on, aided by wins for the ever-popular trio of Cue Card (2013), Un De Sceaux (2017) and Frodon (2019), as well as Uxizandre in 2015 providing McCoy with his final Cheltenham Festival winner and, a year later, a sublime and stylish performance from Vautour.
That was first win in the race and the Festival's all-time leading trainer has now claimed Ryanair Chase glory five times in the eight years.
Allaho was unable to make his pre-Christmas return to action in 2022, leading Mullins to confirm his intention was to go straight to Cheltenham without a run.
In each of his three seasons as a chaser, the Cheveley Park Stud-owned star had reappeared in the month of December.
This time around, that didn't happen and connections revealed just before Christmas that he'd been forced to have six weeks off and was 'doing some light work' at that time.
In 2020/21 the Ryanair was his fourth start, while last season he had two runs en route to the Cotswolds. His forceful front-running style of racing is demanding - both on the day and over time.
Now nine-years-old, there has to be some level of questioning in regards to how sore on himself Allaho has been in his career to date.
Of course, if there is a trainer operating right now that can get him spot on to recapture past glories, then surely it is Mullins.
The aforementioned Un De Sceaux had a similar bruising style of racing and, in the end, it probably told on him, winning the Ryanair in 2017, but unable to replicate that in his final two attempts.
In Allaho's absence, the Ryanair of 2023 was won by Envoi Allen, carrying the same Cheveley Park Stud silks.
Rachael Blackmore's mount jumped to the front at the second last and had enough in reserve up the Cheltenham hill to fend off a rallying Shishkin, the even-money favourite.
Envoi Allen is 8/1 to emulate Allaho in 2024 by retaining the mantle, while Shishkin's subsequent Aintree win over three-miles could see him aimed at the Gold Cup next season - Nicky Henderson's star is 10/1 for Blue Riband glory.
For Allaho and his followers, it remains to be seen how well he returns from what will be his longest lay-off to date.
He last raced at in April 2022 - taking his tally of Grade 1 wins to four in defeating Clan Des Obeaux in the Punchestown Gold Cup.
That took his total starts over fences to a dozen, with seven wins and three further placed efforts. He's still got plenty time to add to that tally if Ireland's champion trainer gets him back to peak fitness.