Samcro and Faugheen are primed for a mouth-watering clash in the Matchbook Betting Exchange Novice Chase at Limerick.
Gordon Elliott’s Samcro was considered one of the budding superstars of the sport after a novice-hurdle season which included victory in the Ballymore at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival.
However, he was beaten on each of his three starts during an underwhelming campaign last term – which ended not long after Christmas when he was diagnosed with a deep-seated lung infection.
Samcro appears to have re-discovered his spark, though, looking much more like his old self with a successful chasing debut at Down Royal – before falling two fences from home when challenging the winner in the Drinmore at Fairyhouse at the start of this month.
Speaking in his Betfair blog, Elliott said: “Samcro had lots of options over Christmas, but this looked the right race for him – the trip suits him well, and he will have no trouble with the ground.
“It was a pity what happened at Fairyhouse, because he was going very well when he came down, but so too was Joseph O’Brien’s horse (Fakir D’oudairies) – and it’s a pure guessing game as to what would have happened had he stood up.
“All I know is that I’m much happier with Samcro this season, and he seems a much happier and healthier horse since we changed a few things around. At home, he shows me that he is back to where he was as a novice hurdler, and I couldn’t be happier with him going into this race.
“He is working well and seems very well in himself, so I hope he will take plenty of beating. It’s been a while since he won a Grade One, but I haven’t lost any faith in him, and it would be great to him back winning another big race.”
Elliott also saddles the only mare in Thursday’s field, Tintangle.
The Willie Mullins-trained Faugheen can count nine Grade One victories among his 13 over the smaller obstacles, including success in the 2015 Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.
He is a late recruit to the chasing ranks as an 11-year-old, but he made a smart start to his career over fences at Punchestown last month – recovering from one serious mistake to win decisively.
The champion trainer’s son Patrick will be on board Faugheen for the first time since steering him to success in a bumper at the 2013 Punchestown Festival.
He said: “Faugheen faces a tough task against Samcro. He actually won in Limerick six years ago – when Samcro was a yearling!
“He’s in super form at home, and we’re hoping he’ll run well.”
The seven-strong line-up is completed by Castlebrook (Jimmy Mangan), Demain Des L’aube (Henry de Bromhead), Glamorgan Duke (Paul Gilligan) and Off You Go (Charles Byrnes).