Fans being kept on tenterhooks over Samcro Punchestown target
Any Samcro supporter hoping for an early steer on which of his four Punchestown festival options connections are favouring was out of luck on Friday, when it was stressed that the decision on whether he sticks to novice company or is pitched into the furnace of the Betdaq Punchestown Champion Hurdle will be one for nearer the time.
The €275,000 Champion Hurdle on April 27 will be one of the key contests in the destination of the trainers' title, being fought out by Samcro's trainer Gordon Elliott and reigning champion Willie Mullins, and Samcro has been installed 5-2 second favourite by Paddy Power and Betfair Sportsbook behind the Mullins-trained Melon at 2-1.
Samcro, one of the most exciting horses in training, is in the Punchestown Champion Hurdle with fellow Gigginstown-owned stablemates Apple's Jade and Mengli Khan, but the six-year-old, who extended his unbeaten record when landing the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham last month, holds three other engagements.
Eddie O'Leary, spokesman for Gigginstown, said: "Samcro is also in the three Grade 1 novice hurdles – the two-miler, the two-and-a-half-miler and the three-miler – and we won't be making a decision until closer to the time."
Betdaq Punchestown Champion Hurdle (April 27)
Betfair Sportsbook: 2 Melon, 5-2 Samcro, 11-2 Mick Jazz, 6 Wicklow Brave, 7 My Tent Or Yours, 10 bar
Apple's Jade, who won the Grade 1 Annie Power Mares Champion Hurdle by 14 lengths at the meeting last year, is likely to go for the same race.
The multiple Grade 1 winner was beaten into third in the Mares' Hurdle at Cheltenham last month, and O'Leary said: "Apple's Jade just didn't run her race there and I don't know why.
"She's in several races at Punchestown but I think she'll go for the mares' race. I hope she can bounce back from her last run and it would be nice to finish the season on a high note with her."
Samcro is certainly not the only Cheltenham Grade 1 winner with options at Punchestown, for Penhill, Footpad and Farclas also figured among the entries for the final three days of the meeting published on Friday.
Winner of the Stayers' Hurdle at Cheltenham, the Mullins-trained Penhill could go for the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers’ Hurdle, while stablemate Footpad, unbeaten over fences and who runs at Aintree next week, is entered for the Ryanair Novice Chase.
Triumph Hurdle winner Farclas is another owned by Gigginstown. He has two options at Punchestown but is likely to stick to his age group.
O'Leary added: "Although he was a maiden going into Cheltenham we were hopeful he'd run well. He's been fine since and the plan has always been to go to Punchestown for the AES Champion 4YO Hurdle."
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