Can Samcro Win at a Third Cheltenham Festival in 2021?
It shouldn't be forgotten that Samcro has won at two Cheltenham Festivals in the past. The occasion and track are the definitive test of a National Hunt racehorse.
Like so many before him, Samcro is a recruit to Rules from the Point-to-Point scene in the UK and Ireland. Undefeated in his first seven starts across all disciplines, he extended his streak to eight with a clear victory in the Grade 1 Ballymore Novices' Hurdle of 2018.
Samcro had the world at his feet, but then lost his when falling at the third last flight in the Punchestown Champion Hurdle. If we had known after the 2018 Cheltenham Festival that he would only win two of his next 10 starts, few would have believed it.
Issues with his lungs and breathing curtailed the 2018-19 campaign for Samcro, and he never shaped like a warm favourite when beaten on all three of his starts. The switch from hurdles to fences would be the making of Gordon Elliott's charge, or so his owners Gigginstown House Stud hoped.
Even steeplechasing hasn't been smooth for Samcro sadly. A ready enough winner on his debut in that sphere at Down Royal, he was taken off his feet by the younger Fakir D'Oudairies in the Grade 1 Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse.
Beloved veteran Faugheen, who had gone over fences extremely late in a racehorse's career, then trounced him by ten lengths at Limerick at Christmas time. In spite of that, Samcro was sent off a 4/1 chance for the Marsh Novices' Chase at the Cheltenham Festival last year.
Returning to the Prestbury Park track with its undulations and hills to climb galvanised this particular gelding. Samcro just got the better of perennial Cheltenham Festival runner-up Melon in a ding-dong tussle to the line, officially winning by a nose when the width of a cigarette paper would be a more accurate description of the photo finish.
Can such a horse ever be written off when returning to a course that clearly suits him? Samcro is not first-choice in the Ryanair steeple chase tips & previews by MBet, but it would be foolish to ignore the pick of his form which has come at Cheltenham.
Despite the fact he was beaten in a Grade 2 back at Down Royal on his return to action this season, and then pulled up in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown, there are reasons to keep faith. These races were stepping stones or fact-finding missions without being disparaging.
Gigginstown supremo Michael O'Leary is the chief of Ryanair, and sure to have some representation in a bid to win his own prize money in the race he sponsors at Cheltenham. That could well be Samcro, who did not appear to stay three miles over Christmas but is certainly effective over two-and-a-half.
His owners have five other early-closing entries for the Ryanair Chase on Thursday, 18 March. None can match Samrco's multiple past successes at Cheltenham, however, and they may have other targets, leaving him to complete a Festival hat-trick that you wouldn't put past him.
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