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Wednesday, 19 December, 2018

Samcro: O'Leary still 50-50 over hurdling or chasing future

Samcro leads Black Op over the final flight in the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham
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Samcro could be staying over hurdles this season with Eddie O’Leary admitting that it would be great for Gigginstown to finally have a genuine Champion Hurdle contender.

A decision will be made in the next couple of weeks with O'Leary, racing manager to owners Gigginstown House Stud, describing the chances of the six-year-old staying hurdling rather than going chasing as '50-50'. 

The Ballymore Novices' Hurdle winner was successful in all seven of his starts prior to the Punchestown Champion Hurdle in April and that Grade 1 contest in open company was supposed to be a fact-finding mission to determine whether Samcro stayed hurdling or went chasing.

Samcro crashed out at the third-last when in with every chance and Gordon Elliott and the O’Learys were left none the wiser.

Now it is decision time. Samcro is 5-1 second favourite behind Buveur D’Air for the 2019 Champion Hurdle with Paddy Power, but as big as 8-1 with BoyleSports. He is outright favourite for the JLT Novices’ Chase and the RSA. Paddy Power offer 4-9 for his first run of the 2018-19 campaign to come over hurdles, and 7-4 he makes the switch to chasing for his seasonal return. 

Samcro: ready to show his true Champion Hurdle credentials at Newcastle on Saturday says Jack Kennedy

"We haven't decided what Samcro will do yet and at the moment I would say it is 50-50," said O’Leary when asked what the most exciting young horse in training would be doing this season.

He added: "He went back into training with Gordon a few weeks ago, but it is still very early days so nothing has been set in stone.

"The Champion Hurdle at Punchestown was supposed to tell us where we were going. If he'd won that he was staying over hurdles and, if he was beaten, we were going chasing. He fell before we knew what would have happened, so it didn’t decide anything."


Gigginstown, who have never owned a Champion Hurdle winner, came closest when Petit Mouchoir finished third to Buveur D'Air in 2017, while Identity Thief came fourth to the same horse this year.

O'Leary said: "Samcro could stay over hurdles but we could still go chasing. We've never had a Champion Hurdle winner so it would be great to have one of those. A definite decision will be made in the next couple of weeks."

Samcro strolls away from his rivals in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle at Leoparstown

Although O’Leary seemed to hint hurdling was the most likely plan, those with ante-post wagers for the novice chases at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival should not give up hope just yet.

"Samcro was made for chasing and he will do it whether it is this season or next," said O'Leary. "He is a strong, powerful horse who looks every inch a chaser and I can't wait to see him jumping fences. That was what he was bought to do." 

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The Champion Hurdle at Punchestown was supposed to tell us where we were going
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