Samcro shows class but Elliott cautious on plans
Classy Samcro maintained his unbeaten record in yesterday's Grade One Deloitte Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown, but his Cheltenham plans are far from certain.
Gordon Elliott's great white hope was sent off the 4/6 favourite, despite dropping back down to two miles, but the result was never in doubt.
There was no great pace early doors as Patrick Mullins went to the front on Real Steel, but the likes of Paloma Blue and Sharjah were pulling hard.
Plenty still held a chance as the big field turned into the straight, but young jockey Jack Kennedy looked to have everything covered on the hot favourite.
Paloma Blue escaped from the pack and gave Samcro something to chase but Elliott's inmate showed plenty of gears and went clear by five and a half lengths.
The inexperienced Duc Des Genievres stayed on nicely to claim second for Willie Mullins, with Paloma Blue holding on for third.
"The horse was great. I'm delighted with him and Jack gave him a great ride," Elliott reflected. "He's opened up a lot of doors and I'd say we can go any road with him now. He's a good horse and we're lucky to have him.
"He was bought to be a big three-mile chaser, and that's what he is, but, to be honest, he showed a lot of class there and he could be anything.
"I don't know where we'll go at Cheltenham, I'll have to ask the boys and see. Coming here I would have said we'd be going for the Ballymore but the way he did that, I would say he could go for any race."
Kennedy added: "He couldn't do any more. He's a pleasure to ride. All going well, we'll try and get to Cheltenham in one piece and look forward to it."
Henry de Bromhead's Monalee put in a sparkling display of jumping to win the Flogas Novice Chase. The 11/4 joint-favourite had fallen on his previous outing over Christmas but met nearly every fence on a perfect stride.
Given a bold ride by Noel Fehily, there were plenty in with chances approaching the last but not Sutton Place, who made a bad mistake down the back straight and was pulled up.
Monalee was almost joined at the last by Invitation Only, but Monalee's proven stamina came to the fore and he eventually ran out a determined three-quarters-of-a-length winner. Al Boum Photo made late gains to claim second ahead of Invitation Only.
"Delighted, absolutely delighted," De Bromhead enthused. "He jumped brilliant, Noel was fantastic on him and I'm just delighted.
"He has booked his passage to Cheltenham now and hopefully he'll come out of it OK and we'll rock on."
The winner is now 4/1 second favourite behind Presenting Percy (3/1) for the RSA Insurance Chase.
Willie Mullins, responsible for the second and third, said: "Al Boum Photo was very good. Invitation Only made a mistake four from home and that didn't help but it was a great run.
"Koshari (who was pulled up) just didn't jump well at that level. We'll look at the JLT and the RSA for all of them."
Jessica Harrington wasted no time in adding to Supasundae's Irish Champion Hurdle win as Alletrix justified favouritism in the Paddy Mullins Mares Handicap Hurdle.
Sent off at 4/1 in the colours of champion chaser Special Tiara, favourite-backers never had much to worry about.
British challenger Lady Buttons travelled strongly into contention down the back straight and was in front turning for home, but Robbie Power always exuded confidence aboard Alletrix.
She survived a scruffy leap at the last to beat Barra by seven and a half lengths.
Liz Doyle and jockey Adam Short teamed up to claim the Chanelle Pharma Handicap Chase with Last Goodbye (12/1) which galloped clear from the last to run out an impressive nine-length winner from Vieux Moran.