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Novice chasing or Champion Hurdle - Ruby Walsh weighs in on the big Samcro debate

Jonathan Vine 30 Aug 2018
Jack Kennedy salutes the crowds after winning the Ballymore with Samcro (left).

Using his column with Paddy Power, top jockey Ruby Walsh has his say on whether Samcro should remain over hurdles or go novice chasing when the new National Hunt season commences.

The emergence of Samcro was one of the highlights of the 2017/18 National Hunt season. There was a lot of noise coming from County Meath during the early stages of the campaign that this youngster could be something special and Samcro certainly lived up to his billing, capping an impressive novice hurdling campaign with a victory in the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

Even a fall on his final start at Punchestown couldn’t quash the Samcro hype and fans immediately turned their thoughts to the autumn. Gordon Elliott stated at Punchestown that the team had yet to decide whether to stay hurdling in 2018/19 or enter the novice chasing ranks and, just last week, the boys at Gigginstown Stud suggested the powers at be were still torn between which path to take Samcro down when he returns to the track.

Using his blog with Paddy Power, for which he contributes regularly, top Irish jockey Ruby Walsh weighed in on the Samcro debate and revealed – if the choice was his – he would unleash Samcro over the larger obstacles.

"From his pedigree and coming from his point-to-point background, and the way he jumps, he looks a chaser and that's the way I'd be inclined to go with Samcro this season.” Walsh said to Paddy Power. "I know he fell on his last start but he does look to be a wonderful jumper."

“He ticks the right boxes to head for a Champion Hurdle as in, he's a Ballymore Novices' Hurdle winner like Istabraq, Hardy Eustace and Faugheen.”

“On the other hand, if he stays over hurdles for another season, it's often harder to go over fences then. The only horse who has won a Champion Hurdle and then won a Gold Cup, is Dawn Run. On that basis, you'd have to wonder if a second season hurdling is the right way forward for a horse whose ultimate aim is to be a chaser.”

Ruby Walsh (right) shares a comment with Samcrr's trainer, Gordon Elliott (centre) during the Cheltenham Festival.

Walsh continued, “It's a long way from a beginners chase to a Cheltenham Gold Cup and a lot of things have to go right. That's the choice that Gigginstown have to make and whatever way he goes, he's a horse you'd want to be avoiding. If he was to go chasing, whether it be an Arkle Trophy, a JLT or a RSA Chase that he lines up in at the Cheltenham Festival, I think you'll find it will be a small field taking him on."

"Gigginstown have been extremely successful with chasers but having said that, neither of their Gold Cup winners would have won a Champion Hurdle. In that way, Samcro is probably a bit different to War Of Attrition and Don Cossack. They kept Petite Mouchoir for a Champion Hurdle and maybe because of that, his chasing career didn't hit the scales that it might have. I'm sure they'll put a lot of thought into it and until you see him line up in a beginners chase or a conditions hurdle, you won't really know which way he's going."

Earlier this week, Irish bookmaker Paddy Power issued betting on what route Samcro might take over the coming months, with another season over hurdles on offer at 4/9.  A campaign over the larger obstacles was put in at 7/4.

Walsh also shared news on his recovery from his latest injury, which has kept him on the sidelines since Saturday, following a crashing fall on Sapphire Lady at Killarney.

"It was a heavy enough fall and I was badly winded afterwards. I have a lot of bruising to my rib cage, especially around the sides and the back. They're fairly sore," revealed the Paddy Power racing ambassador. 

"They say things come in three's and I think that's more conducive to healing than things happening in three's. If you're not better in three days, you're generally better in nine days and I'm hoping that's the case. With no jump racing for most of the professional jockeys next week, there could have been a worse time to have a fall like that. I'll be back for Listowel on Sunday week, that's the plan." 

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Novice chasing or Champion Hurdle - Ruby Walsh weighs in on the big Samcro debate

Using his column with Paddy Power on Thursday 30th August, top jockey Ruby Walsh has his say on whether Samcro should remain over hurdles or go novice chasing when the new National Hunt season commences.

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