Gigginstown yet to firm up plans for stable star Samcro

Listowel festival’s €200,000 feature tempts O’Leary to enter six in pursuit of four in a row

Some of Europe’s elite flat talent will be on show at the upcoming Irish Champions Weekend. Although it is plans for jump racing’s most exciting young talent, Samcro, which are perhaps being most keenly anticipated of all.

Next week's Listowel festival is traditionally the signal for National Hunt racing's top names to start gearing up for the winter campaign and there's none bigger right now than Samcro.

Debate as to whether or not Michael O’Leary’s young superstar should stay over the smaller obstacles, and go down the Champion Hurdle route, or start a novice chase career has been growing in recent weeks.

Even Ruby Walsh has expressed his opinion that the former point to point winner should be sent over fences and Samcro is already ante-post favourite for the Arkle and JLT at Cheltenham in March.


He is also as low as 4/1 second favourite for the Champion Hurdle and such are the apparent range of options open to this exceptional looking prospect he is even quoted at 20/1 in some lists for this season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup.

"No decision has been made yet and there's no panic on making one. He's only back cantering," said Samcro's trainer Gordon Elliott on Tuesday. "I'll have to speak to Michael and Eddie [O'Leary] first anyway."

Eddie O’Leary said on Tuesday he and his brother will be swayed by Elliott’s opinion about what to do with last season’s Cheltenham festival winning novice.

‘Going chasing’

All seem to agree though it would be a much easier call had Samcro not subsequently fallen at the third last when taking on older horses for the first time in Punchestown’s Champion Hurdle last April.

“If he hadn’t fallen that would have answered the question for us. That’s why he ran in it. If he’d won he’d have stayed hurdling; if he’d got beat he’d be going chasing.No call has been made and we haven’t even had a discussion about it. When Gordon calls to say where we go then we’ll decide. But hopefully we’ll have a horse sound enough to decide with,” said Eddie O’Leary.

The massive strength of Gigginstown Stud is gearing up for another potentially successful jumps campaign. And O’Leary confirmed that star mare Apple’s Jade is back in training.

Apple’s Jade was a beaten 1/2 favourite in Cheltenham’s Mares Hurdle last March and could again finish only third to Benie Des Dieux at Punchestown.

“She lost her form last year and she seemed to be in season all the time from Cheltenham. She’s back in now and seems fine again.

“You’d like to travel the same route with her if you could. The only thing different we might do is probably go for the Irish Champion Hurdle. Last year she went straight to Cheltenham and she tends to be better busy than not busy,” added O’Leary.

The latest big handicap chase up for grabs will be next week’s Listowel centrepiece, the €200,000 Guinness Kerry National, for which Gigginstown has a half a dozen entries as they chase a fourth win in a row.

Rogue Angel kicked off the streak in 2015, followed by Wrath Of Titans in 2016 and Potters Point last year. The former Irish National hero could have another crack at the Listowel highlight.

“Whatever qualifies and whatever gets a run will run. When you can run them, you run them,” said O’Leary.

Clarcam’s shock 33/1 Galway Plate victory just a month ago followed up Tiger Roll’s memorable Aintree National success and General Principle’s surprise 20/1 win in the Irish Grand National less than a fortnight before that.

Gigginstown’s dominance provoked calls last season, including by trainer Tony Mullins, for limits on the numbers of runners a single owner can have in certain races. Unsurprisingly, Eddie O’Leary disagrees and pointed to the Plate and the Irish National to support his arguement.

‘No chance’

“If there was a law to say we could only run nine in the Irish National we’d have taken out the winner. Or if there was a law to say we could only run five in the Plate we’d have taken out Clarcam. I thought he had no chance. As per usual then, if they qualify we run them,” he said.

Since Galway Clarcam has been sold to America and some of the O'Leary Kerry National contenders could also change hands the following week at Goffs Sales in Doncaster.

A total of 38 Gigginstown horses are catalogued for the dispersal sale, including Kerry National entries Lord Scoundrel, Thunder And Roses and Wounded Warrior.

Organisers of Irish Champions Weekend will hope the weather continues to be kind, although in-form Newmarket trainer William Haggas is anxious for it turn spoil sport.

Haggas wants to run his progressive older horse Addeybb in the Qipco Irish Champion Stakes if the ground is soft enough.

“It all depends on the weather. I really fancy having a go at the Irish Champion and that would be my principal target. It’s going to be a very strong race on fast ground but I think it might not be as deep on soft ground, so I really fancy that,” he said. “He’s also in a Group Two [Boomerang Stakes] over a mile there.”

In Wednesday's Gowran action Lethal Power makes a quick return after finishing sixth in Saturday's Irish Cambridgeshire at the Curragh. Johnny Murtagh puts first-time blinkers on the three-year-old who should like an extra furlong and has a decent draw.

Tips and nap

Gowran: 4.05 - South Pacific; 4.40 - True To Herself; 5.10 - Dragon Girl;
5.40 - Alpine Pass; 6.10 - Perfect Tapatino; 6.40 - Prepare For Battle; 7.10 - Lethal Power (nap); 7.40- Davids Charm
Nap and double: Lethal Power & Davids Charm

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column