Samcro ‘very, very, very doubtful’ to make Cheltenham Festival

Gigginstown identifies Petit Mouchoir as stable’s best Champion Hurdle hope

Samcro was beaten for a third time this season at Leopardstown over Christmas, quickly fading to fifth in the Ryanair Hurdle. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

Samcro was beaten for a third time this season at Leopardstown over Christmas, quickly fading to fifth in the Ryanair Hurdle. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

 

Samcro will be left in the Unibet Champion Hurdle at next week’s entry stage but is “very, very, very doubtful” to make the Cheltenham festival.

Michael O’Leary’s enigmatic star was beaten for a third time this season at Leopardstown over Christmas, quickly fading to fifth in the Ryanair Hurdle after looking a winner in the straight.

Veterinary tests have been carried out on the former novice star since then with nothing serious showing up according to the Gigginstown Stud spokesman, Eddie O’Leary.

Samcro remains a 16-1 shot for the Champion Hurdle but O’Leary said: “He’ll be kept in the Champion Hurdle in case things go real well. But we’re looking at the longer picture.

“He is very, very, very doubtful for Cheltenham. He won’t be rushed. He’ll come back in his own sweet time and if he doesn’t this season, he’ll be let off. He was always going to go chasing next season regardless.”

Hot favourite

Samcro’s apparent likely absence from the Champion Hurdle could fuel speculation about his stable companion Apple’s Jade tackling the two-mile championship rather than the OLBG Mares Hurdle for which she is a hot favourite.

However on Tuesday O’Leary revealed Gigginstown’s prime Champion Hurdle contender may yet prove to be Petit Mouchoir.

Petit Mouchoir won the Irish Champion Hurdle in 2017. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho
Petit Mouchoir won the Irish Champion Hurdle in 2017. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho

Third to Buveur D’Air in the 2017 Champion Hurdle, Petit Mouchoir ran five times over fences in a novice chase campaign last season. He returned to action in the Ryanair Hurdle over Christmas and although last behind Sharjah was beaten less than ten lengths.

“He ran a fantastic race on his first race back from a setback. He was only half fit and only beaten eight lengths. He’ll stay hurdling. He had an issue with a joint and Henry [D Bromhead] feels he’s better staying hurdling.

“He was third in a Champion Hurdle before, when he went way too fast in front, and won an Irish Champion. You have to say he retains his ability and if we have a Champion Hurdle horse it will be him,” O’Leary said.

Star mare

First of all Petit Mouchoir will join Apple’s Jade in next month’s BHP Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown. However Eddie O’Leary played down any suggestion of the star mare ultimately lining up over two miles at the festival in March.

“I still say we haven’t a single gelding that qualifies for the Mares Hurdle – not one!” he said. “That’s may answer to that. She qualifies and that’s still where I would go. It will be there or the Stayers. But her ideal trip is two and a half miles.”

Gigginstown’s talented novice Mengli Khan is still be targeted at Cheltenham’s Arkle Trophy despite failing to fire in a Grade One at Leopardstown on St Stephen’s Day when ridden from off the pace.

“You’ve got to try things and when the horse was left back there it suited him to be left back there,” O’Leary. “We haven’t lost faith in him and he will be ridden more positively the next day.”

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