4 Reasons Why Samcro is Still a Banker for the Champion Hurdle
November 15, 2018
This time last year, the Gordon Elliot-trained Samcro, was getting talked about as the second coming of Jesus Christ.
Owners, Gigginstown House Stud, said that was only possible if he won at Cheltenham, so if his win in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle in March was confirmation of his ‘chosen one’ status, then punters might be considering his latest run at Down Royal to be something of a Last Supper at the top table of National Hunt racing.
Despite that rather unflattering 2nd place effort in Ireland, there is still reason to believe a metaphorical resurrection could occur at Cheltenham in March, and Samcro’s recent drift in the market is just further encouragement to become one of his many disciples.
Stick with the Irish
Regular followers of the big meeting at Cheltenham will tell you that it often pays dividends to follow the Irish. Horses, trainers and jockeys, that is. They just seem to know the right recipe to reach their season peak when the freshness springs the air in mid-March.
Take last year’s Prestbury Cup, a competition during Cheltenham that clocks up the number of Irish trained winners against those trained in the UK. From the 28 races in 2018, the Irish romped to victory by 17 to 11.
It’s not just the overall meeting that the trainers from Ireland dominate either, the Champion Hurdle has had its fair share of Irish charm, and that’s where connections have confirmed Samcro will be heading this season.
Ten of the last 16 winners of the Champion Hurdle, dating back to 2003, have been trained by Irish handlers – that’s a strike rate of 62.5%.
POSITIVE: Samcro, Melon, Laurina
NEGATIVE: Buveur d’Air
Horses for Courses
The old adage of ‘horses for courses’ has been uttered among racing fans for decades, but on an undulating track like that at Cheltenham, it might ring true more than anywhere else.
We regularly see horses winning for fun on flatter tracks like Aintree or Kempton, but take them to Cheltenham, and suddenly it’s a whole different test. Take the great Silviniaco Conti for example. A winner of three Graded races at Aintree and a two-time King George winner at Kempton, yet the best he could muster was a third at Cheltenham. He finished out of the places in his four other visits there.
Where are we going with this you might ask? Well, the point is that winning at Cheltenham is arguably as tough as it gets, so course form counts for a lot. Another plus for Samcro.
Take his so-called target race, the Champion Hurdle. 18 of the last 25 winners have won at Cheltenham before and the majority of them have won a race other than the Champion Hurdle in the past.
POSITIVE: Samcro, Laurina, Buveur D’Air
Since the dominant days of Istabraq, no horse has managed to land three consecutive renewals of the Champion Hurdle. Winning in ’98,’99 and ’00, Istabraq has set the bar so high, that nobody has yet been able to match it.
Hardy Eustace was a double winner in ’04 and ’05, while Buveur d’Air has taken Champion Hurdle glory in the past two seasons.
However, the 2019 renewal is sizing up to be the most competitive for some time, and with plenty arguing it has been a weak division in the last two seasons, Buveur d’Air may well find his match.
With Melon already eliminated in our last point, and this one knocking down Buveur d’Air we’ll leave that battle between Samcro and Laurina.
POSITIVE: Samcro, Laurina
NEGATIVE: Buveur d’Air
Back the Boys
If that leaves us to a battle between Samcro and Laurina, then we are all in for a treat come Champion Hurdle time in March.
Nonetheless, we are here to find a winner and there are more than a few reasons to go backing Samcro over Laurina.
Just take the handicappers view for example. Samcro last ran off a mark of 160, while Laurina is down at 150. Even with the mares’ allowance coming into play, that is some catching up to do.
On that note, you can argue that Laurina has never raced against the opposite sex yet either, and although the likes of Annie Power have proved that is no barrier to success, even she did it off a mark of 162.
For us, that’s Laurina eliminated, barring some real improvement, while we’re looking forward to revelling in Samcro marching up the famous Cheltenham hill.
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As a qualified sports journalist, Luke has worked with nationally-recognised outlets covering events from the World Cup to the Grand National. Luke is one of the few men who has to admit that their father was the better footballer, but at least he can take comfort from the fact he got to see his Dad score at Wembley. When Luke isn’t talking football, you’ll normally find him following his other passion, horse racing and has his own horses in training with Paul Nicholls and Mark Johnston.