Saturday 24 March 2018

Betting Ring: Believe the hype - Samcro on road to super stardom

Lizzie Kelly gives the thumbs-up after landing yesterday’s Ultima Handicap Chase on Coo Star Sivola. Photo: Sportsfile
Lizzie Kelly gives the thumbs-up after landing yesterday’s Ultima Handicap Chase on Coo Star Sivola. Photo: Sportsfile

Wayne Bailey

They reckon the wheelbarrow was invented in China around 100 years before the birth of Christ, and while Chinese wheelbarrows were designed to carry big loads over long distances, the first European wheelbarrows were designed to carry smaller loads over shorter distances.

The history of horse racing goes back even further, although I'm not quite sure when we came across the first 'wheelbarrow job' in the sport of kings. That is, of course, a horse so certain to win and that you'll need to bring your wheelbarrow to collect all the dough from the bookie shop afterwards.

Priced around 8/11, you'd need to stake a lot of money on Samcro in the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle (1.30) to collect a wheelbarrow of cash, but if there's a banker of the day, this is surely it. I nailed my colours to the mast in the Arkle yesterday and said Footpad would be my biggest bet of the week - so I'm trying to resist the temptation to top up my existing bet on Samcro with the winnings.

But just like Footpad, we are all about potential here and on the early evidence, Samcro looks frighteningly talented. Of course, all of that potential is built into his price, but can you ask for much more in an odds-on Cheltenham hotpot? A stylish winner of his three bumpers, he was backed right down to 1/5 for his debut over hurdles at Punchestown but he didn't disappoint, and he beat some promising sorts in the process.

Next up came a Grade Three at Navan which was won without breaking a sweat, and he took the big step up in class to Grade One level completely in his stride when dismissing yet more good novice horses to win by five-and-a-half lengths at Leopardstown.

Those looking to pick holes in his armour will point to the fact that he's yet to meet a horse to give him a real test, but that's hardly his fault and Elliott's star has done all he's been asked with the minimum of fuss under Jack Kennedy in those three hurdle races to date.

Kim Bailey. Photo: Alan Crowhurst
Kim Bailey. Photo: Alan Crowhurst

It's a very big ride for Kennedy here and not only is it Samcro's first real test, it's also his first race outside of Ireland. Of course, anything can happen in racing and so-called dead certs can and do get beaten. But this is a horse of rare potential and it will be great for the sport of he lives up to expectations.

If the unthinkable happens and he does under-perform, Next Destination is the one most likely to pick up the pieces for Willie Mullins under Ruby Walsh. He's also unbeaten in three hurdles including a Grade One, and his trainer has the record for the most wins in this race at four - all of which featured Ruby Walsh on board. That gives Walsh the jockey record here too.

Both horses have had their problems, but we finally have the battle we've been waiting for between Altior and Douvan in the Queen Mother Champion Chase (3.30). It's rare for a horse to come back after such a long absence and win at the Festival - and while the racing fan in me deeply wants to see Douvan bounce back, the fact that we haven't seen him in a year really puts me off his price of 100/30.

Altior is yet to be beaten in a hurdle or a chase in 12 races, and while he's also had some issues including a setback on Monday, he looked back to his best when taking the Game Spirit Chase last time and Nicky Henderson has said he's fit and well to go here. He's eased to odds-against which seems fair all considered.

For something at a bigger price, take a chance on The Last Samuri in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase (4.10) at 11/2 or thereabouts. An out-and-out stayer, he was placed before in both the Grand National and Becher Chase, and these conditions will be right up his street.


Stat Attack: Queen Mother Champion Chase (3.30)

Race fitness is important in the Champion Chase, and 18 of the last  20 winners had their previous race within 60 days of the Festival.

The two exceptions were Sprinter Sacre in 2016 and Flagship Uberalles in 2002, which had raced 80 days and 95 days respectively before Cheltenham. Those figures might be concerning for backers of Willie Mullins’s Douvan, which was last seen when seventh in this race last year at 2/9. He suffered a pelvic fracture, but Mullins is happy with him now.

Charbel – trained by Kim Baileyast raced 95 days ago in the Tingle Creek, the same as Gary Moore’s Ar Mad, which finished one spot ahead of Charbel when third in that race. Favourite Altior raced in February.

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