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Fighting Fifth or Hatton's Grace next for Samcro after Morgiana defection

Samcro was a late Morgiana withdrawal due to the unseasonably dry ground
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Samcro will have to wait for the Betvictor Fighting Fifth Hurdle on Saturday week or the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle a day later to repair his reputation after connections deemed the ground too quick for his eagerly anticipated Morgiana Hurdle appearance.

Trainer Gordon Elliott and Eddie O’Leary of Samcro’s Gigginstown owners had cautioned since early last week that their brilliant Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle winner would not run if they didn’t feel conditions at Punchestown were soft enough, and Elliott was phlegmatic about the circumstances surrounding the horse's withdrawal on Sunday.

The prolonged dry spell rendered conditions unseasonably quick but course officials were reluctant to put too much water on given the rainfall that is doubtless around the corner.

The going was officially good, good to yielding in places, but the Jessica Harrington-trained Supasundae was also withdrawn earlier on Sunday, reducing a heavyweight showdown between three of Irish racing’s equine galacticos into a far less compelling four-runner contest.

“We walked the course yesterday and walked it again today,” Elliott said.

“They have done a great job with it in fairness as they have put a nice bit of water on it, and I’d love to have been able to run him, but for me it was just too quick going down the hill. There’s no point taking a chance – Samcro is too good a horse.”

Elliott confirmed the two-mile Fighting Fifth at Newcastle on December 1 and the half-mile longer Hatton's Grace at Fairyhouse on December 2, where stablemate Apple's Jade could also turn up, were now the races they would choose between.

"He is in the Hatton’s Grace and he is in the Fighting Fifth," he said. "Obviously, I will have to talk to Michael and Eddie O’Leary and see but he will probably go for one or the other."

Elliott waited to make his decision until after the first hurdle race - the second on the card - had been run so he could consult Samcro's intended rider Davy Russell.

He withdrew Samcro at 12.46, which prompted the stewards to interview him about the late withdrawal. Elliott explained the warm temperatures on what was a bright and mild afternoon had compounded the situation, and the stewards accepted his explanation. 

Robbie Power, who had been due to ride Supasundae, echoed Elliott's sentiments.

"We fully intended to run him as he needs to get his season started, but it just felt a bit quick for him for his first run of the season," he said. "The Hatton's Grace is only a fortnight away, so hopefully the rain will come and he can start off there."

Punchestown's loss could be Fairyhouse's gain, but Punchestown spokesperson Shona Dreaper felt they could have done no more.

Shona Dreaper, pictured here with Brian Cody when Punchestown was named racecourse of the year at the Godolphin Stud & Stafe Staff Awards, felt officials did all they could

"The winter festival feels like the global warming festival at the moment because of the temperatures we are having," she said. 

"We did what we could. The lads on the track did an excellent job – they have 60-odd years of experience looking after a track – but it’s November. We are putting water on the track and that's a dangerous thing to be doing at this stage of the season when you know the rain will come soon.

"Everyone is disappointed, but we gave it our best shot and the trainers did as well. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out on the day."

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We did what we could. We are putting water on the track and that's a dangerous thing to be doing at this stage of the season
E.W. Terms