Gordon Elliott confirms Samcro is being kept to hurdling this season
Dettori set to team up with Weld’s Eziyra in Saturday night’s Breeders Cup Filly & Mare race
Samcro, with Jack Kennedy, winning at Leopardstown in February. He will return to action at Down Royal on Friday. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images
Confirmation that Samcro is being kept to hurdling this season provoked a flurry of future odds although one firm’s paltry 16-1 about Michael O’Leary’s star eventually winning both the Champion Hurdle and the Cheltenham Gold Cup perhaps best reflects the excitement surrounding him.
Friday’s Grade Two WKD Hurdle at Down Royal will see Samcro return to action, but the hugely exciting chestnut has already displaced the reigning dual-champion Buveur D’Air as favourite for the hurdling championship at Cheltenham in March.
Months of speculation that the former point to point winner could go novice chasing this season ended on Monday when Samcro’s trainer Gordon Elliott revealed future plans through a betting exchange sponsor.
“I’ve never had a Champion Hurdle horse before, and Gigginstown have yet to win it, and we thought it was worth giving Samcro a shot at that race,” Elliott reported.
“He was bought as a future chaser, and hopefully we will see him over fences in the future. As far as this season is concerned though he will be staying over hurdles.”
Samcro won last season’s Ballymore Novices Hurdle at the Cheltenham festival, a race which in the past has been won by subsequent Champion Hurdle winners such as Istabraq and Hardy Eustace.
Neither went on to jump fences, but Betway go just 16-1 about Samcro winning both the Champion Hurdle and the Gold Cup during his career. Only the legendary Dawn Run has ever managed the double.
Samcro is one of 10 entries left in this Friday’s €50,000 Down Royal heat which could see him taken on by a quartet of Willie Mullins runners, including the Galway Hurdle winner Sharjah.
The ground at Down Royal is currently good and good to yielding in places, and conditions could prove too quick for the 2015 Gold Cup hero Coneygree to travel from Britain for Saturday’s JNwine Champion Chase.
However, Down Royal’s manager Mike Todd on Monday predicted “the nicest jumping ground seen this season” for the two-day festival.
“It is beautiful jumping ground. You couldn’t water it. It’s perfect. The forecast is unsettled this week and there is rain expected on Friday, potentially 7-10mm, and Saturday,” Todd said. “If all that rain comes we could be looking at yielding, or yielding to soft.”
Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown Stud team are strongly represented among the hopefuls for Saturday’s Grade One feature which they’re seeking to win for a sixth year in a row.
Noel Meade supplied Road To Riches to win for the Ryanair boss in 2014, and this time plans to saddle last year’s runner-up Road To Respect for another crack at it.
“Road To Respect will go for the Nicholson race all going well. We had him in at Punchestown but decided not to run because the ground was very quick. But he’s in good shape. Down Royal isn’t the stiffest three miles in the country so we’re happy to go there,” Meade said.
In flat racing news, Frankie Dettori is set to team up with Dermot Weld’s Eziyra in Saturday night’s Breeders Cup Filly & Mare event at Churchill Downs.
A quarter of a century after Vintage Crop’s landmark Melbourne Cup success, Weld famously remains a pioneer of international racing, and the Aga Khan-owned filly will attempt to give him a first success at US racing’s showpiece event.
Dettori rode Hazapour to finish fifth for Weld and the Aga Khan behind Masar in the Epsom Derby in June. The Italian jockey has twice before won the Filly & Mare on board Ouija Board in 2006 and Queen’s Trust a decade later.
Eziyra is an 11-2 shot in some lists behind Godolphin’s favourite for the $2 million event Wild Illusion.