Cheltenham Festival: Much hyped novice Samcro dubbed the 'people's horse'

Cheltenham Festival: Much hyped novice Samcro dubbed the 'people's horse'
By Sportsbeat

14/03/2018 at 00:44Updated

Gordon Elliott will rely on Samcro to get his campaign up and running after a disappointing first day at the Cheltenham Festival.

The County Meath trainer was crowned champion trainer last year, but endured a difficult start, epitomised by favourite Apple's Jade's defeat in the Mares' Hurdle at the hands of Willie Mullins trained Benie Des Dieux. 

Despite his rival landing an opening day treble, Elliott will not be too disheartened, as he believes he has a real contender for the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle in Samcro. 

The six-year-old remains undefeated in rules races and travels to the UK for the first time with an already lofty reputation. 

This was bolstered by his emphatic victory in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle at the Dublin Festival in February, which he finished five and a half lengths clear of Duc Des Genievres. 

His performance catapulted him into the picture for the Supreme, but connections opted for the Ballymore, insisting that their charge still has a point to prove. 

"He did the talking for himself at Leopardstown. He's becoming a people's horse now, which is great and we're thrilled to have him," said Elliott. 

"He goes for the Ballymore but he'll need to improve again from Leopardstown to win it. We're very lucky to have him."

Also hoping to get their Festival up and running will be ten-time champion trainer Paul Nicholls who, despite perhaps not having the firepower to challenge for the top prizes this year, has a great chance in the RSA. 

The Ditcheat trainer fields Black Corton, who has undergone a radical transformation this season, winning eight from his last ten starts over fences. 

He has been brought on leaps and bound under Bryony Frost, who saddled Nicholls only winner Pacha Du Polder at last year's Festival. 

"He's kept on improving. He had a little break after Kempton. You would never have believed this time last year he would be where he is now," said Nicholls.

"What I like is that he is really strong at the back end of a race and the Cheltenham hill will suit him very well." 

It will be a tough task to overcome Presenting Percy, who was last seen running Gold Cup horse Our Duke to within a length in the Red Mills Chase at Gowran Park in February. 

The seven-year-old is bidding to win his second successive Festival race, having already won a handicap hurdle last year and is favourite to strike again for trainer Patrick Kelly.

Elsewhere, the eyes are drawn to the Mullins trained Max Dynamite who has been meticulously laid out for the race and is unexposed over hurdles after eight runs. 

A former flat runner, the eight-year-old had options heading into this Festival, including the County Hurdle and heads into the race as a deserved favourite. 

This will be a hotly contested race, with the pick of Nicky Henderson's four runners being William Henry, who ran strongly to land Kempton's Lanzarote Hurdle. 

And finally Nicholls will field Topofthegame, a big powerful horse hoping to give the Cheltenham crowd a glimpse of his potential as a chaser next season. 

Sportsbeat 2018