Gordon Elliott yet to decide on Samcro’s Punchestown target
Shattered Love could take on Footpad at Fairyhouse, Cue Card retirement date set
Gordon Elliott is yet to decide on Samcro’s target at next month’s Punchestown Festival. Photograph: David Davies/PA
Gordon Elliott will wait until nearer the time before deciding which race Samcro will line up in at next month’s Punchestown Festival.
The much-vaunted six-year-old maintained his unbeaten record with a clear-cut win in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham almost a fortnight ago and is likely to be a warm order in whichever race he contests in County Kildare.
Elliott said: “He’s in great form, so he is. He came out of the race very well.
“We were hoping he’d win, but it is Cheltenham and things don’t always happen there. Thankfully everything went well, he looks a very good horse and we’re very lucky to have him.
“The plan is to go to Punchestown with him, all being well. He’ll have a couple of entries, so it’s not just finalised which race he’s going to run in. We’ll make up our minds a bit closer to the time.”
Asked whether Samcro would remain over hurdles or embark on a career over fences next season, the trainer told At The Races: “It’s still all up in the air. We’re still toying with the idea of training him for the Champion Hurdle next year, but nothing is set in concrete yet.
“I’ll have to talk to Michael and Eddie (O’Leary). We’ll get Punchestown out of the way and make a plan then.”
Samcro is likely to spearhead a formidable Elliott team at Punchestown as the Cullentra handler bids to be crowned champion National Hunt trainer in Ireland for the first time.
Elliott currently leads Willie Mullins by around €500,000, but remains typically pessimistic about his chances.
“Like I said last year, I probably have no chance,” said Elliott, who reached a record 194 winners for the Irish campaign on Sunday.
“Willie’s ammunition for Punchestown is unbelievable, but we’ll give it a good rattle. We’ll do our best and that’s all we can do.”
Other Punchestown hopefuls for the Elliott team include Supreme Novices’ Hurdle third Mengli Khan and Apple’s Jade, who was third when defending her crown in the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Elliott said: “Mengli Khan will probably go for the two-mile novice hurdle. Next year he’ll definitely go chasing.
“Apple’s Jade is grand. She came home (from Cheltenham) very quiet and she was bit under the weather for a few days, but she’s back cantering away.
“She got beat fair and square by a very good horse on the day, but she just didn’t run her race and wasn’t herself.
“We’ll train her for Punchestown now.”
Elliott could go a long way to securing the title even before the Punchestown Festival gets under way, with huge prize-money up for grabs over the Easter weekend at Fairyhouse.
He intends to run “10 or 12” horses in the €500,000 Irish Grand National on Monday, while Shattered Love — winner of the JLT Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham — could clash with the Mullins-trained Footpad in Sunday’s Ryanair Gold Cup.
“Shattered Love is in great form. She might go to Fairyhouse for the Ryanair Gold Cup,” Elliott added.
“She’s a massive mare — she looks like a gelding — and she keeps improving.
“She doesn’t do anything fancy at home but when she gets the track she’s just relentless.”
Meanwhile Cue Card will end his career on the final day of the jumps season at Sandown on April 28th.
Trainer Colin Tizzard and owner Jean Bishop had been in discussions over whether to bid for one more Grade One triumph in the Melling Chase at Aintree or the Grade Two bet365 Oaksey Chase at the Esher circuit.
But Bishop said: “We decided on Sandown. We just thought it would suit him because it tends to be a small field for that race and it gives him a bit longer with the prospect of some nice ground.
“It’s the last day of the season, too, so it’s a nice place for it all to come to an ending.”
In the four years since its inception, the Oaksey Chase has been won only by the Philip Hobbs-trained Menorah, who himself retired after last season’s victory.
Bishop added: “It’s quite fitting he will end in a race that has only been won by Menorah, so far as he had quite a few good races against Menorah. Hopefully it will end the same way for us.
“He’s been incredible. It makes no difference now but he wasn’t even four when he won the Cheltenham Bumper — he was foaled at the end of April.
“Like them all he has had the odd problem in his career, but touch wood, he has come through them all without missing a lot.”
Cue Card’s jockey Paddy Brennan tweeted: “What a day in store Sandownpark on the 28th of April. One last day out buddy. #cuecard #legend.”