Elliott not discounting Cheltenham return for Samcro

Festival not ruled in or out with Aintree or Punchestown possible

  • Tuesday 12 February
  • News
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Samcro may yet complete a remarkable recovery in time to race at this year’s Cheltenham Festival.

The seven-year-old, a star even of the all-powerful axis of Gordon Elliott’s stable and Gigginstown ownership roster, began this season with high hopes of a challenge to Buveur D’Air’s Champion Hurdle crown after his outstanding novice campaign.

Samcro failed to meet those lofty expectations in three runs – including when a well-beaten second to dual champion Buveur D’Air in Newcastle’s Grade One BetVictor Fighting Fifth Hurdle – and after his most recent defeat at Leopardstown over Christmas, owners’ spokesman Eddie O’Leary announced a ‘very, very deep lung infection’ had been discovered.

Elliott, however, has dispelled the assumptions of many that Samcro may well not be seen on the racecourse again until next season – suggesting that he may yet take up an entry at Cheltenham next month, and if not possibly Aintree or Punchestown later in the spring.

“Touch wood, he’s very good. He’s back in full work,” the top Irish trainer told Sky Sports Racing.

“He’ll do a bit of work at the end of this week, and we’ll see where we’re going. But I’m very happy with him.”

Asked if he is therefore not ruling out the possibility of Samcro returning to the Festival, a year after winning the Grade One Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle there, Elliott said: “Definitely not.

“We kept him in all the races at Cheltenham. Obviously, he’s in the Champion and still in the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.”

Elliott and the same owners’ brilliant mare Apple’s Jade has emerged as their number one Champion Hurdle contender.

But speaking about a Festival challenge of some sort for Samcro, the trainer added: “It’s not a definite no-no at the moment – we’ll see how the next couple of weeks go. But if not, we’ve got the Aintree Hurdle and Punchestown.

“The next 10 days will tell us.

“We’ve no target for him yet, but I’ve a couple of little things in my head – and I’ll see how the next couple of weeks go.”

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