From the doldrums to the winner's circle: Samcro beats Melon and Faugheen in thriller

The much-maligned Samcro got the better of Melon in a thrilling finish to the Marsh Novices' Chase, the opening race of the third day of the 2020 Cheltenham Festival.

Samcro ridden by Davy Russell (left) on his way to winning the Marsh Novices Chase during day three of the Cheltenham Festival. Photo: Tim Goode/PA
Samcro ridden by Davy Russell (left) on his way to winning the Marsh Novices Chase during day three of the Cheltenham Festival. Photo: Tim Goode/PA

As the pair crossed the line, it looked like Samcro, winner of the 2018 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, had been mugged on the line by Melon but when the verdict came through the dual Champion Hurdle runner-up was a neck behind with the 12-year-old Faugheen producing a valiant effort in third.

A delighted Elliott said: “Obviously he was in the doldrums for a while, so to get him back and win a Grade One in Cheltenham is something else. You can see how much it means to everyone in the yard. A lot of people have done a lot of work with this horse — they've spent day and night trying to get him right.”

Reflecting on the challenges Samcro has provided, Elliott added: “He hasn't been scoping clean and it's been hard to get him to scope right. We've done a lot of different things, like building him a new stable, and he's pulled it off today. Everyone was knocking him, saying this and saying that. I probably even lost a bit of faith in him myself, but the horses are flying and I just can't believe it.”

Elliott admitted he feared the worst when the front two crossed the line. “I am a bit of a pessimist but I thought Melon had got us on the line, to be honest. He missed the second-last and Davy said that knocked the stuffing out of him. He jumped brilliantly apart from that. It was a great race to watch, with Melon, Faugheen, and Samcro — that's what this place is all about.”

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