Samcro is one of six horses declared for the Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse.
The Gordon Elliott-trained seven-year-old looked a superstar in the making as a bumper horse and novice hurdler, with his triumph in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival extending his then unbeaten record under Rules to seven.
However, he fell on his final outing of that campaign in the Punchestown Champion Hurdle – and last term was seriously underwhelming, as he suffered three defeats before the new year and missed the remainder of the season because of a deep-seated lung infection.
Samcro looked much more like his old self when making a winning return to action on his fencing bow at Down Royal a month ago, though, and will be a hot favourite back to Grade One level on Sunday.
The son of Germany may not have things all his own way – with the standard arguably set by Burrows Saint, who provided champion trainer Willie Mullins with his first Irish Grand National success at this venue in the spring.
Joseph O’Brien’s Fakir D’oudairies adds further strength in depth, while Ronald Pump has been supplemented by trainer Matthew Smith following an impressive debut over fences at this track three weeks ago.
Smith said: “We’re looking forward to it. It’s obviously the hottest race he’s run in, so we’ll see how we go.
“He’s won three races in Fairyhouse, so he obviously likes the track. It is a big step up for him, but there’s only one way to find out if he’s up to it or not.”
The field is completed by Elliott’s second string Tintangle and Chef Des Obeaux – who makes his first start for the Mullins team, having previously been trained in Britain by Nicky Henderson.
The first of three Grade One events on a top-class card is the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle, in which Elliott’s Envoi Allen is the star attraction.
Last season’s Champion Bumper hero made a foot-perfect start to his career over hurdles at the start of the month, and will be widely expected to successfully step up to the highest level.
Next in the market is his stablemate Abacadabras – with Joseph O’Brien’s Midnight Run, the Mullins-trained Foveros, and Darver Star from Gavin Cromwell’s yard also featuring among nine runners. The latter has won his last four starts, but faces a rise in class.
Cromwell said: “He’s done nothing wrong, but this is a huge step up and it will be tough for him.
“It’s his last day as a novice, so we thought it was worth a go. It’s nice to have a horse able to compete in these races.”