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Samcro: too much hype or the real deal? Our experts have their say

Jack Kennedy celebrates success aboard Samcro
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Samcro captured the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham to justify his sky-high reputation. But just how good is he?  

He's clearly exceptional and I'm certainly not going to start picking holes in the form of a horse who has won over 2m and 2m5f in Grade 1 company without coming off the bridle.

There is still plenty more to come from him, but his novice hurdle form is not as good as Altior's and that one has now won an Arkle and a Champion Chase, so there is still an awful lot for Samcro to prove before we crown him king. 

Tom Segal, Pricewise

Sorry to come across like an old git who's seen it all before, but I've long learned to keep expectations in check when it comes to potential superstars.

Samcro could be one of those, but at the moment he remains just a very good winner of what could prove to be a very good Ballymore.

The history of that race tells you how hard it is for horses to stay at the top as only four winners this century have gone on to subsequent Cheltenham Festival success – that's why we make a hell of a lot of fuss when top-class horses enjoy long careers.

However, assuming Samcro remains injury-free and keeps on improving he could be a monster and the fact Gordon Elliott has already had two three-time festival winners in his short career is a major plus.

Paul Kealy, betting editor

Seven races under rules, seven victories. Winning distances totalling 62¼ lengths and two Grade 1 successes already in the bag. The evidence suggests Samcro is the real deal and there was nothing I saw last week at Cheltenham to weaken that opinion.

He lost a shoe in the process and stumbled at the road crossing yet was cantering over a field that included Black Op and Next Destination – horses with substance to their form – approaching two out. He then put the race to bed in a matter of strides turning in.

Yet, because he didn’t pull ten lengths clear, not everyone was impressed. That’s harsh and to my eyes he wasn’t even trying in front – there looked to be loads in the tank when Jack Kennedy did shake him up close home. It’s easy to get carried away, but at this stage, he looks an an exceptional talent.

Lewis Porteous, reporter

He's the real deal. Don't let the winning distance in the Ballymore fool you, he was value for much more than that. He has everything, including the perfect personality. He was so relaxed beforehand and that will stand to him going forward. 

The way in which he eased to the front on the final bend was so easy on the eye and I think he would have won the Supreme or the Albert Bartlett had he gone for either of those. Of course he has been hyped, but every last word of the hype looks justified. Let's revel in his brilliance.

David Jennings, Ireland deputy editor

He's a total rockstar and one of these Kauto Star/Desert Orchid types, two miles, three miles two furlongs, hurdles, fences, it doesn't matter to him. I was an early convert to the Church of Samcro and so far I've seen nothing to make me think judges of horseflesh as shrewd as Gordon Elliott and Davy Russell are wrong when they say he's the best they've encountered.

Stuart Riley, reporter 

Which Cheltenham Festival race would you go for next season?

Gigginstown love their chasers and I would imagine the Arkle has to be strong favourite for where he will be aimed next year, but I would love to see him have a crack at the Champion Hurdle. It's a weak division and I think he would have won the race this season without too many problems.

Tom Segal, Pricewise

I'd seriously consider the Champion Hurdle, as Buveur D'Air has just struggled home in the worst one in living memory.

Gigginstown are all about chasers, though, so I'd imagine it's fences, and if that's the case it would be Arkle or JLT for me. He's certainly not short of speed and his finishing effort suggested he doesn't want to be going much further than 2m5f for now anyway.

Paul Kealy, betting editor 

There is no right or wrong answer but, having seen him in the flesh for the first time at Cheltenham, I’d love to see him soaring over fences next season.

Everything about him screams chaser, and the biggest conundrum is the trip. Arkle, JLT and RSA all look viable targets, but if the long-term dream is the Gold Cup, the JLT or RSA would seem the logical next step.

Lewis Porteous, reporter  

The Champion Hurdle. The two-mile hurdling division is very weak right now, the exception obviously being Buveur D'Air, and Samcro could mop up everything in Ireland before going on to tussle with the Champion at Cheltenham. 

Samcro: his little brother Think Positive makes his debut for Willie Mullins in the Land Rover Bumper

Immediately after the race, Gordon Elliott's instinct was that they may have run him in the wrong race and he surely would have sauntered to success in the Supreme. There's lot of time for chasing, he's only six. Why not have a crack at the Champion Hurdle as a seven-year-old, the Arkle or JLT as an eight-year-old and the Gold Cup as a nine-year-old?
David Jennings, Ireland deputy editor
I imagine they'll take him over fences next season as he's already six and he's built for it. They will likely start him off over two miles and it may become hard to get away from the Arkle as it's more prestigious than the JLT, but the JLT would be a better stepping stone than the RSA for where they want to get with him – which is the Gold Cup.

It's mad to suggest it, given he's not even jumped a fence in public, but that's where I'd be building towards next season. Coneygree and Thistlecrack have proved in recent years you can win the top races as a novice and you need only look at the fate of those two, along with recent Gold Cup winners like Sizing John and – for these connections – Don Cossack, to realise you may get only one chance at chasing's ultimate prize.

Stuart Riley, reporter

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Of course he has been hyped, but every last word of the hype looks justified. Let's revel in his brilliance

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