A massive talking horse for sometime, Samcro is the name on everyones lips both in the UK and Ireland. He has been described as the second coming, but lets not get too carried away, he’s won three Novice Hurdles. But there is no denying that the fashion in which he has gained all of his victories has been nothing short of devilishly impressive. Everything looks so easy for him, he jumps well, travels and when asked for his effort, seems to put the race to bed in a matter of strides. He really hasn’t been tested yet and there seems to be no ceiling with him and on that basis, even though his price of 4/5 is very skinny, he probably deserves it. Would I be backing him at the current price? To be honest I think he could still be value, so I won’t say no. Do I think he’ll win? Yes. He’s won on ground ranging from Good to Yielding all the way to Heavy so I don’t think he’ll mind whatever the conditions are in March and quite frankly, he might be an absolute freak.
Next in at generally around the 5/1 mark is On The Blind Side for Nicky Henderson, who is also unbeaten. He won a Grade 2 at Cheltenham back in November, beating Momella and Poetic Rhythm which is form that has been franked since. But the concern I have is that he looked to get outpaced before staying on very strongly in the closing stages and the Ballymore can have a tendency to lend itself to horses with quite a bit of speed. The likes of Simonsig, The New One and Faugheen have all predominantly been 2 milers who have won this race and I just wonder whether Samcro will be long gone before On The Blind Side gets into top gear. He was more impressive at Sandown subsequently, but I do slightly question whether the quality of opposition in that particular contest would be finishing even near the places in a Ballymore.
I see Next Destination as more of threat, he ran really well to be fourth in last seasons Champion Bumper. Still unbeaten over hurdles he has looked relatively comfortable, however once again I have concern. He has a Grade 2 and a Grade 1 win to his name which is impressive, however he’s beaten the same horses in both races and so in winning the latter race we didn’t really learn anything more about him. While he has been very good in winning, he just hasn’t ‘wowed’ me like the favourite has. In saying this a return to better ground may suit him being by Dubai Destination, but at the prices I’m not massively keen on him.
Duc Des Genievres may also line up for Willie Mullins and the return back to this intermediate trip will suit him given how well he stayed on over 2 miles in the Deloitte last time. A pair of places in Grade 1’s in as many appearances since coming over from France, he has very much been thrown in at the deep end. There should still be some improvement in him and while the trip should suit, he has a bit to find with both Samcro and Next Destination.
Tom George has the option of the Albert Bartlett or this contest for Black Op, who was a decent second at this track in a Grade 2 when last seen, marginally pipped by Santini following a mistake at the final flight. He has a rating of 150 so he more than warrants his place in either line up, but that last run was over 2m4f on heavy ground and he was staying on all the way to the line and I personally feel he would be more suited to the test of the Albert Bartlett.
Of the rest at bigger prices, Kim Bailey has some smart novices this season, none more so than his unbeaten Sidney Banks winner Vinndication. Currently 4/4 under rules he has done nothing but improve and he readily put Western Ryder in his place at Huntingdon last time and that entitles him to a shot at this. He looks very tough but I just wonder whether he has the class, I may be doing him an injustice there but what I will say is that for a horse unbeaten in 3 starts over hurdles the general 20/1 on offer is very fair.
Colin Tizzard is hitting form at just the right time and he has a couple of possibilities in here with Vision Des Flos and Ainchea. The former failed to fulfil his early promising after he was subsequently bought following his Land Rover Bumper win at Punchestown. But his performance in an Exeter Listed contest when last seen (a race won last season by Finian’s Oscar) was nothing short of superb. Ainchea was about to make it 2/3 over hurdles at Sandown last time before coming down at the last and he’s another who I wouldn’t discount from a place chance at decent odds.
The last horse I want to touch upon is Nicky Henderson’s Ok Corral. His back form really catches the eye, a win over High Bridge in a Kempton bumper before heading over to Ireland only to go down 2¼ lengths to Yorkhill when 17 lengths clear of the third. He had been on the sidelines for a couple of years and reappeared in May last year when he made a winning comeback before going down a small margin to his stablemate Whatswrongwithyou, conceding weight. But that once again isn’t a bad piece of form and he followed that effort up with a comfortable win back at Kempton when stepped up in trip to 2m5f. He relished that extra distance and if taking his chance the 33/1 on offer at Betfair or for the added insurance the 25/1 NRNB with bet365 may well tempt me in.
Whatever beats Samcro wins, but in truth I’d be surprised if anything does. I can see the next two in the market running well but don’t entice me at the current prices. Ok Corral would be my leading each way nibble, with the Tizzard pair and Vinndication possible place chances at decent prices but I won’t be getting stuck into them at this stage.