Cheltenham Festival: Hype horse Samcro brilliantly lives up to its billing
Jockey Jack Kennedy praised Samcro's unreal performance after the hurdling prodigy landed the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle to give Gordon Elliott his first winner at this year's Festival.
The six-year-old made his first to trip to Britain with an already massive reputation, bolstered by his victory in the Deloitte Novices' Hurdle at Leopardstown in February.
And he made relatively light work of it on his Festival debut, moving through the field superbly under Kennedy to secure his first Cheltenham victory by two and three quarter lengths.
"That was unreal. He's just a class horse. I was there way too soon on him, but he kept going," he said.
"The horse is very good. I wasn't happy with the position I had during the race, but he's such a good horse that he got me through."
It was a far from flawless performance from the favourite though and there were a few tense moments, especially as he veered over to the stands rail on the run-in as he idled on the run-in.
But to the relief of Elliott, Samcro's class won out and he found another gear to finish comfortably ahead of the dogged Black Op in second.
"It's a big team effort from everyone at home, and it worked out great today. There was a lot of pressure, for Jack [Kennedy], for me â€“ for everyone, the whole team," Elliott said.
"I'm delighted. He looks a very exciting horse and we are very lucky to have him. Michael [O'Leary, the owner] loves his big chasers, but I wouldn't be afraid to bring him back in trip."
From one up and coming Irish star to another, Presenting Percy ran a flawless race en route to victory in the RSA Chase.
The seven-year-old has now won back to back Festival races, having claimed the Pertemps Final last year and has emerged as a future Gold Cup contender for trainer Patrick Kelly.
Davy Russell gave the novice a patient ride, sitting him well-behind early frontrunner Black Corton before travelling strongly down the hill and taking leader Monalee rounding the home turn.
"I've underestimated this horse all along. People have really latched onto him. He's unimpressive to me, but, by God, he's some horse," he said.
"Sometimes you're a fool and sometimes you're a hero, but it all worked out today. I've nothing but praise for the man [Kelly], he's a genius. We'll enjoy today."
That sentiment was echoed by delighted owner Philip Reynolds, who praised Kelly's management of his up and coming chaser.
"The man [Kelly] is an absolute genius the way he trains horses. I can't believe it myself. It was so stressful watching it. It's more relief than anything else. I love this horse."
An Irish treble in the opening races of today's meeting was completed by Willie Mullins who, off the back of his own treble on Tuesday, struck in the Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle with Bleu Barry.
With Ruby Walsh out injured with a suspected broken leg, jockey Mark Walsh stepped in at the last minute to land his first ever Festival winner, edging Paul Nicholls' Topofthegame by a head.
"You don't want to ride a winner like that but I'm just delighted to be called up by Willie to ride him," he said.
"They went a nice gallop and everything went to plan. We got the splits, he winged the last, and had enough petrol in the tank."