Samcro gets Festival target as Cue Card goes for Gold
Samcro has been confirmed for the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle at next month's Cheltenham Festival, removing any speculation that Gordon Elliott's brilliant six-year-old would be switched to the shorter Supreme Novices' Hurdle.
Gigginstown House Stud racing manager Eddie O'Leary outlined the plans for Samcro - unbeaten in seven career starts - and hopes the son of Germany can defy the "hype" and back up his jaw-dropping display at Dublin's Racing Festival earlier this month.
"It has always been our intention to run Samcro in the Ballymore and nothing has changed. He runs in it and that's final. We think that he will be a nice chaser over three miles for next season," O'Leary said.
"Even though he won the Deloitte over two miles, he won't be running in the Supreme. We don't do hype so Samcro will have to go out and show us what he is made of in the Ballymore. Hopefully he will get there in one piece."
Samcro is a warm order favourite (8/11) for the longer novice race while last year's Mares' Hurdle heroine Apple's Jade will avoid pitting her wits against the big boys over three miles in the Stayers' Hurdle to defend her Mares' crown, for which she is an 8/13 hotpot.
Robbie Power is another bidding for a repeat of last year at the Festival and revealed the torment he experienced trying to choose between riding reigning Gold Cup hero Sizing John and last year's Irish Grand National winner Our Duke in this season's renewal.
'Puppy' compared his dilemma to that which Ruby Walsh faced ten years ago when deciding between Kauto Star and Denman - Walsh picked the reigning champion which was defeated by a majestic Denman - but the Meath rider has no regret siding with Sizing John.
Both of Jessica Harrington's charges trade at around the 6/1 mark behind favourite Might Bite, but Power outlined the rude health of his mount as the eight-year-old bids to become the first consecutive Gold Cup winner since Best Mate (2002-2004).
"Sizing John's work at home has been better than ever. He has been very, very good and his preparation has gone 100pc to plan. I couldn't be any happier with him and I can't wait to ride him again at Cheltenham."
The Harrington pair are likely to line up against the evergreen Cue Card, Colin Tizzard's chaser which nearly brought the house down at Ascot on Saturday after a magnificent run behind progressive seven-year-old Waiting Patiently.
Owner Jean Bishop feels the 12-year-old - which will be having his seventh run at the big meeting with Paddy Brennan in the plate - deserves a third crack at the Festival showcase, having fallen at the third-last when in contention on both occasions.
Coney Island's Gold Cup participation is up in the air, however, with trainer Eddie Harty left scratching his head following an off-colour display when pulled up by Barry Geraghty in the same race.
"I don't know what happened. He jumped well early on, but then he made a couple of mistakes and Barry pulled him up, which was probably the right thing to do," Harty said of the JP McManus-owned seven-year-old.
"He's back home and seems fine, so we'll see if anything comes to light or not over the next few days or whether it was just a bad day."
One horse definitely on course for the Festival, however, is Jer's Girl with trainer Gavin Cromwell declaring her "in great order" following a mid-season break ahead of possible engagements in the Mares' Hurdle, Stayers' Hurdle and Coral Cup.
Cromwell's one-time Triumph Hurdle ante-post favourite Espoir D'Allen will not make the trip to the Cotswolds, with the Meath trainer believing that the four-year-old "wasn't quite himself" following his heavy defeat at Leopardstown.
Elsewhere, Cheltenham will break new ground on the second day of its April meeting (April 19) with a seven-race programme exclusively for fillies and mares with €215,000 in prize money on offer.