Unbeaten Samcro To Lead Elliott Into Battle At Punchestown

Ireland’s highest rated novice hurdler, Samcro, will spearhead Gordon Elliott’s team of runners at the Punchestown Festival next week and a leap out of novice company for the BETDAQ Punchestown Champion Hurdle hasn’t been ruled out by connections.


Despite creating history by surpassing 200 Irish winners in a season and also winning both the Irish and English Grand National in the space of a couple of weeks, Elliott is planning a massive assault on the five-day Punchestown Festival in a bid to try and seal his first ever Irish trainers championship.

Unbeaten Samcro To Lead Elliott Into Battle At Punchestown

Samcro with Jack Kennedy in the saddle, leads Elliott Army

Elliott gave a positive update on his stable star; “Samcro is in good order and ready to go at Punchestown but which race we’ll go for won’t be decided until the weekend at the earliest. We were obviously delighted with his performance at Cheltenham and he’s a horse that I feel very lucky to have and we’ve given him different options at Punchestown and we just want to make sure we try and pick the right one for him.

“He won the Ballymore (2m5) at Cheltenham so the Profile Systems Champion Novice Hurdle (2m4f) could be the race for him at Punchestown but I’d have no problem dropping him back for the Herald Champion Novice Hurdle (2m) or stepping him up in trip. He’s also in the Champion Hurdle on Friday but we’ll wait and see and I’ll have to sit down and talk to Michael and Eddie.”


Interestingly in 2002 the Willie Mullins-trained Davenport Milenium did manage to complete a double at the Punchestown Festival when winning the Profile Systems Champion Novice Hurdle and the BETDAQ Punchestown Champion Hurdle when they were ran on different days, while in 2003 Back In Front attempted to win the BETDAQ Punchestown Champion Hurdle just days after winning the Herald Champion Novice Hurdle only to finish a narrow second to Quazar in Friday’s feature and Elliott does hold that option for the unbeaten seven-time winner Samcro.


Elliott’s most likely candidate for the opening Grade 1 race of the week, the Herald Champion Novice Hurdle, is Mengli Khan who was only narrowly beaten in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. Also in Elliott’s novice hurdle ranks is the Triumph Hurdle winner Farclas and high class flat recruit Pallasator.


“We’ve got some nice novice hurdlers. Mengli Khan ran a blinder in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and he’s likely to go for the Herald Champion Novice Hurdle on Tuesday. We were delighted with Pallasator at Easter when he won at Fairyhouse and at Leopardstown before that and he seems to handle the ground well so we’ll look at splitting up the novices as best we can.

“Farclas has improved nicely with each run and seems to have come out of Cheltenham well. Again, we’ve kept our options open but I’d say he’s most likely to go for the AES Champion Juvenile Hurdle on Saturday.”


Tuesday’s BoyleSports Champion Chase has a rich roll of honour and Elliott would love to land the first major prize of what is sure to be an epic week at Punchestown.


“It would be tough to say that Doctor Phoenix would have beaten Un De Sceaux at Fairyhouse but most importantly he is fine since that fall and on course for the BoyleSports Champion Chase on Tuesday. That looks like it is going to be a very hot race but he certainly deserves to take his chance and he’s been a grand horse for us this season.”


Elliot won the Coral Punchestown Gold Cup in the past with Don Cossack and three time Grade 1 winner Outlander is his main representative next Wednesday with Irish Grand National winner General Principle also a potential runner.


“Outlander goes for the Coral Punchestown Gold Cup and General Principle might join him. Outlander won another Grade 1 for us this season at Down Royal was only beaten a neck at Leopardstown in February and three lengths there at Christmas so he’s a great little horse. If the ground doesn’t dry up too much hopefully he’ll be there or thereabouts.

“General Principle hasn’t done much since he won the Irish Grand National and we won’t make a decision on him until closer to the time but if he’s well at the weekend he deserves to take his chance on his last run of the season. We’ll probably have others there as well but we’ll wait and see how they work later in the week.”


Dual Grade 1 winning novice Shattered Love is among the entries for the Coral Punchestown Gold Cup as well as the Growise Champion Novice Chase on Tuesday and the Ryanair Novice Chase on Thursday.


“Shattered Love has won two Grade 1’s for us this season and won at Cheltenham so she owes us nothing. We’ve given her three entries and I’ll talk to Michael and Eddie (O’Leary, Gigginstown) and we’ll decide where she goes. She seems to have come out of Fairyhouse well.”


Elliott added; “We’ve had an unbelievable season and to train 200 winners was fantastic and to win both Grand National’s was incredible but if I could swap every single one of those to be champion trainer I would.

“We are very lucky to be able to go to Punchestown over five days and compete for such fabulous prize money and we have a very tough task on our hands to keep Willie Mullins at bay because he has a brilliant record around here but we’ve got a nice team of horses and hopefully a few with good chances.”

The 2018 Punchestown Festival takes place from Tuesday 24th to Saturday 28th April. For further information please visit www.punchestown.com


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