Samcro aiming for bigger Cheltenham prizes after living up to Festival hype
Cheltenham Festival 2018 Samcro aiming for bigger Cheltenham prizes after living up to Festival hype
â¢ Brilliant winner could have 2020 Gold Cup in his sights
â¢ Michael OâLeary starts to believe after Ballymore victory
Samcro is not the second coming of Jesus Christ, we have been assured by his owner, but, for many punters here, he will do until Jesus Christ comes along. This place has welcomed ma ny a hyped novice hurdler from Ireland over the years and a fair number of them were sent home without the trophy but Samcroâs reputation proved entirely justified in the opening race. âHeâs performed his first miracle,â declared one particularly gleeful fan, after the Ballymore Hurdle.
Jack Kennedy, his 18-year-old jockey who was himself praised to the skies from a very early stage, does not do nerves but few of those in the crowd are so blessed. There were rumblings of discontent as Samcro dived over an early hurdle, then seemed to trip over a road crossing.Altior wins Champion Chase: Cheltenham Festival 2018 â" live! Read more
Memories were doubtless stirring of Getabird, the Irish-trained favourite who had completely blown out on Tuesday. Samcro was stuck on the outside of the pack, with no horse directly in front to give him cover, at risk of burning himself up far too early.
If there was anyone less bothered about that than Kennedy , it was Samcro, who loped along with his lazy, fluid stride and floated up to join the leaders shortly before the home turn. So began the call-and-response between commentator and crowd that makes Cheltenham such a joy when the âbankerâ bets prove well chosen.
âSamcro making a promising move,â noted Simon Holt and the horseâs backers were suddenly everywhere, shouting him home. âSamcro coming there very strongly indeed,â Holt continued and the stands became one open throat with a single purpose, bellowing for the Irish good thing and for the bookies to take another beating.
âThe hype is never justified,â said Michael OâLeary, the owner who has repeatedly tried to dampen down expectations for the six-year-old. He may as well have been talking to himself. âTo be fair, he did that very well.â
OâLeary blamed the bookmakers for said hype, which rather seemed like kicking an industry when itâs down. âTheyâre always trying to suck peopl e into the ante-post market. He didnât justify the kind of hype that was going on when he ran at Christmas. There was far too much talk early in the season.â
This victory was a relief, not just to those who had expressed their faith in pounds or euros, but to the winning trainer, Gordon Elliott. The rising force in Irish jumps racing, he had endured a torrid opening day, with two beaten favourites and the loss to a fatal injury of a talented young animal, Mossback.
âIn this game, you have to get up every morning and start fresh again,â Elliott said. âWe had a rough day yesterday. And horses like this, thereâs a lot of hype, a lot of pressure. But we can enjoy it now.â
Were Elliott given free rein, one senses heâd be inclined to keep Samcro to the smaller obstacles and aim at the Champion Hurdle next year. But OâLeary and his brother, Eddie, make the decisions about their horses and any such plan seems far from their thoughts. Steeplechasing is their game. âOh, geez, heâs a chaser,â Eddie said. âTheyâre all chasers. If itâs hurdles, with us, itâs on the way.â
The formal line from Michael OâLeary is that the whole team will have a discussion after Samcro dances round Punchestown next month, a home game in front of adoring fans for which he will be unbackably short. There seems little room for doubt that heâll be a novice chaser next winter, with the 2020 Cheltenham Gold Cup as his long-term target.
âThe only downside of winning a race in Cheltenham is that everybody wants to plan the future instead of enjoying just this perfect moment,â said the owner, as wise a thought as he has uttered at the racecourse. In the next breath, OâLeary the provocateur was back in charge, alluding to Samcroâs chestnut colour. âHeâs beautiful. I donât like redheads generally but Iâd make an exception in his case. Heâs my favourite ginger.âTopics
- Cheltenham Festival 2018
- Cheltenham Festival
- Michael O'Leary
- Horse racing
- Share on Facebook
- Share on Twitter
- Share via Email
- Share on LinkedIn
- Share on Pinterest
- Share on Google+
- Share on WhatsApp
- Share on Messenger
- Reuse this content