Samcro Officially Ruled Out of Cheltenham Festival by Gordon Elliott
I think since winning at the Cheltenham Festival last season, Samcro has been spoken about as a challenger for the Arkle, JLT, RSA, Champion Hurdle and most recently the Stayers Hurdle. After a disappointing campaign that saw him lose every race he ran in, the seven year old has officially been ruled out of running at the Cheltenham Festival by his trainer Gordon Elliott.
His last assignment was scheduled to be the Stayers Hurdle, partly because he had failed to show the speed to stay at two miles, and partly because it looks to be a pretty weak division at the moment. After running poorly at Leopardstown in December, Samcro was found to have ulcers in his stomach, and treatment for those began. While it has gone well, they did not clear up quickly enough to get him back out on the gallops and working strongly enough to go to the Cheltenham Festival.
Prior to that defeat at Leopardstown, we had seen him beaten over hurdles at Newcastle in the Fighting Fifth against Buveur D’Air, and at Down Royal in a Grade Two that kicked off his campaign. All three races were over hurdles, after the decision was made that he would not go chasing this season.
After winning at the festival last spring, he was straight away spoken about as a potential star novice chaser for this season, with the ability to go back in trip for the Arkle, remain at two and a half miles for the JLT, or move up in trip for the RSA Chase.
However, at the beginning of the season we were told that the horse would remain over hurdles, and start off over two miles, with a potential tilt at the Champion Hurdle on the horizon. Samcro was bought from the point to point field, so he has already shown the ability to jump a fence, which made the decision to keep him over hurdles a baffling one. There was talk of this horse being a Gold Cup contender in the future, but the yard seemed against that.
The only plausible explanation for the situation is that he schooled badly over fences at home, and they didn’t want to risk him over them in public. Instead they have given him a year over the smaller obstacles, and if that is the case don’t be surprised to find out they go back to fences over the summer in the hope he has brushed up his jumping skills.
Whatever is decided in the future, I think one thing we can rule out with this horse is two mile hurdling. He does not have the speed to cope with the best at that distance, and it would be a waste to see him there again. If he does stay hurdling he will have to step up in trip, but with no two and a half mile hurdle race at the festival, that will mean a move to three miles. He won his point to point over three miles, so that shouldn’t be a problem, and he certainly wasn’t stopping over two and a half at the Cheltenham Festival last season.
Where ever Samcro goes, there will no doubt be a big following behind him, this is one of the biggest talking horses of the past few seasons. There is no doubt he has an unbelievable amount of talent, but this season just hasn’t gone right for him. New season, clean slate and a fresh start are all on their way in the summer, and that could be exactly what this lad needs to get his career back on track.