Samcro will face six rivals when he makes his eagerly-anticipated debut over fences at Down Royal on Friday.
The star novice hurdler of two seasons ago, Samcro’s connections considered commencing his career over the larger obstacles this time last year – but ultimately elected to go down the Champion Hurdle route.
It proved a disappointing campaign as he suffered a shock defeat in the WKD Hurdle on this card 12 months ago, proved no match for Buveur D’Air in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle and then could finish only fifth at Leopardstown over Christmas.
Samcro missed the remainder of the campaign after being diagnosed with a deep-seated lung infection, but will be widely expected to make a successful return in the Advanced NI Scaffolding Beginners Chase – a race his trainer Gordon Elliott won last season with the top-class Delta Work.
With Samcro’s regular partner Jack Kennedy sidelined by injury, Keith Donoghue will ride Samcro for the first time on the racecourse.
Elliott said: “Jack Kennedy is number one riding in our place at the moment, but he is hurt. Keith (Donoghue) does all the schooling of the young horses, so rides Samcro on Friday, but he will be Jack’s ride when he comes back.”
Samcro is one of two runners for Elliott and Gigginstown House Stud, with Mark Enright booked to partner his stablemate Dortmund Park.
Noel Meade’s Trappist Monk is perhaps the biggest threat to the Elliott pair.