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Samcro out to live up to the hype as the Cheltenham Festival rolls into town

Cheltenham Festival

The Cheltenham Festival is back, and for racing purists, this really is the greatest show on earth.

This year, Samcro is the so-called Irish ‘banker’ of the four-day bonanza. Described by many as the ‘second coming’, there was much deliberation over which race he would line up in but Gigginstown House Stud’s racing manager, Eddie O’Leary, has now confirmed that he will take part in the Ballymore, the novice hurdle race over the intermediate distance of two miles and five furlongs on day two of the Festival. O’Leary said, “It has always been our intention to run Samcro in the Ballymore and nothing has changed. He runs in it and that’s final.”

The Champion Hurdle is the feature race on day one of the Festival and Buveur D’Air, for Nicky Henderson and JP McManus, will be a short priced favourite to take the two-mile contest and it is impossible to oppose him. He is three from three this season and won the Supreme Novices Hurdle over course and distance at the Festival last year. The best of the rest is probably Faugheen, for Ireland’s master trainer Willie Mullins, who won the race in 2015 but he has been disappointing this season. In truth, it looks a weak renewal of the race apart from the favourite. Petit Mouchoir looks the bet of day one in the Arkle.

Day two sees the two-mile chasers take centre stage in what is sure to be a traditionally fast and furious running of the Queen Mother Champion Chase. It will be a mouth-watering contest if the top three in the market turn up; Altior, Min and Douvan. At the prices, Min looks the value at 7/2 after his impressive win in the Dublin Chase at Leopardstown last month.

Day three sees the Stayers Hurdle and Ryanair Chase share the spotlight. The Stayers Hurdle is wide open where the Irish trained horse, Supasundae, is expected to start favourite. Sam Spinner would be a fairy-tale story if he was to win the race having started the season off as a handicapper for his trainer Jedd O’Keeffe who in 2011, got throat cancer. Thankfully, he has recovered from that and is healthy and well at the moment. Bacardys and The World’s End are the two to back against the field at their forecasted each-way prices. The Ryanair Chase is the intermediate champion chase race as it takes place over two and a half miles. It is one of the more recently introduced races and it is designed for horses who don’t have the speed for two miles or who don’t have the stamina for three.

Un De Sceaux is flying the flag for Ireland in this and he is bidding to retain his crown in the race that he won last year. In truth, he is tough to oppose. The final day sees the blue-riband event of the four-day bonanza with the Cheltenham Gold Cup taking place. Last years RSA winner and current King George champion, Might Bite, is the favourite but it’s a surprisingly open race. Road To Respect, trained by Noel Meade and owned by Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown House Stud, has to go close as he is a real improver while last year’s Irish National hero, Our Duke, can confirm his potential by going close.

The first day takes place on Tuesday, the 13th of March, so sit back and enjoy four days of magnificent racing.

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