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Potential superstar Samcro faces date with destiny

Samcro: short-priced favourite to maintain his unbeaten record in the Ballymore
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1.30 Cheltenham
Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) | 2m5f, 4yo+ | ITV/RUK

Wednesday, March 14. It's potential superstar Samcro’s date with destiny as favourite backers hope to land a hefty early blow on the bookmakers on day two of the Cheltenham Festival.

Unbeaten in a point-to-point, three bumpers and three novice hurdles, form figures alone suggest Samcro is special, but it has been the manner of his victories that has most impressed.

The six-year-old breezed to a five-and-a-half length win over Duc Des Genievres in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle over two miles at Leopardstown when last seen in February, although many bubbles have been burst in this race in recent years.

Only three of the last ten editions have gone the way of the favourite, with Yanworth suffering his first hurdles defeat in this race in 2016 and the ill-fated Neon Wolf losing his overall unbeaten record last year.

Subsequent Gold Cup hero Denman also had to settle for second for the first time in 2006.

Denman: lost his unbeaten record in this race in 2006 when second at odds of 11-10
Samcro's trainer Gordon Elliott said: “Everyone knows how highly we regard him. He travelled over very well and is eating and drinking as normal. The testing ground won't be an issue and we're very happy with him."

Gigginstown House Stud chief Michael O’Leary described the hype around their emerging star as 'rubbish' in December. On Wednesday we will find out whether it was justified.

Ireland have landed six of the last ten renewals and the market suggests the Willie Mullins-trained Next Destination – who has the benefit of previous Cheltenham Festival experience from a three-length fourth in last year’s Champion Bumper – is the main danger to Samcro.

What they say

Fergal O'Brien, trainer of Aye Aye Charlie and Coolanly
Aye Aye Charlie is green and will benefit for the experience. Coolanly is a massive price. His form is rock-solid and he's a lovely horse. I wouldn't be surprised at all if he finished in the first four.

Tom George, trainer of Black Op
He's had a good preparation and coped with the heavy ground on trials day. He must go there with the best chance of the English runners, although we're going into the unknown in taking on Samcro.

Willie Mullins, trainer of Brahma Bull, Duc Des Genievres, Next Destination and Scarpeta
Next Destination will like the trip and the testing ground and has done very well this season. Going back up in trip will suit Duc Des Genievres after running second to Samcro last time, but he still has plenty to find. Brahma Bull is unbeaten but is taking a fair rise in class following a break due to a setback. He's a strong sort and jumps well. Scarpeta was impressive at Gowran Park and the form has worked out well. The trip and ground will suit and I wouldn't put anyone off backing him each-way.

Ben Pauling, trainer of Gowiththeflow
He’s in very good order. He’s a much bigger price for this race than he'd have been for the Albert Bartlett, but I didn’t want to go over three miles at this stage on the ground he'd encounter. He’s a fast-improving horse and has an each-way squeak.

Joe Tizzard, assistant to Colin Tizzard, trainer of Vision Des Flos
He had a small wind op before last time and handled the ground very well down at Exeter. He's clicked at home. Samcro is going to take a hell of a lot of beating but I think he'll handle the conditions well and we expect him to run a big race.

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He travelled over very well and is eating and drinking as normal. The testing ground won't be an issue and we're very happy with him
E.W. Terms
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