He's the most hyped horse since Golden Cygnet, but Samcro justifies the hype

He is, quite simply, the most hyped horse since Golden Cygnet. It is just as well Gordon Elliott’s Samcro isn’t human, because, if he was, the weight of expectation might overwhelm him, writes Pat Keane.

He's the most hyped horse since Golden Cygnet, but Samcro justifies the hype

Lots of great National Hunt horses have come and gone since Golden Cygnet died in 1978, but none, one can argue, ever captured the public’s imagination in the way Samcro has, at least not in the early stages of their careers.

Golden Cygnet was a freak of nature and a quite extraordinary talent. I was lucky enough to be at Cheltenham in 1978 when Boots Madden guided him to success in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

Starting at 4-5, and with Madden sitting motionless, Golden Cygnet won by an astonishing 15 lengths.

That was a terrific performance, but it was what Golden Cygnet was about to do some weeks later, until fate cruelly intervened, that ensured his somewhat mystical status.

He went to Ayr for the Scottish Champion Hurdle and took on two superb hurdlers in Sea Pigeon and Night Nurse. A novice, Golden Cygnet seemed to face a very difficult task.

Remarkably, however, he was cantering all over both of them when taking a fatal fall at the final flight, victory eventually going to Sea Pigeon.

Vincent O’Brien put everything into perspective when later quoted as saying: “He (Golden Cygnet) was the best hurdler I have ever seen.’’

Few, if any, were moved to disagree with the great man.

After he won at Cheltenham, Golden Cygnet was favourite for the following year’s Champion Hurdle.

Well, Samcro will never be favourite for the Champion Hurdle and, indeed, it is highly unlikely he will ever even get a quote for that race.

No, Samcro is set to travel down an entirely different route, but there is no doubt every move he makes over the coming weeks, months, and years will be scrutinised.

Last Sunday at Navan, he cemented his position as the most talked about horse in training and as a particularly special talent.

Successful by 15 lengths previously in a maiden hurdle at Punchestown, the imposing five-year-old landed a Grade Three by 12 lengths and was value for double that margin had Jack Kennedy so wished.

His record so far is six wins in as many races, with three bumpers and a point-to-point also coming his way.

All surfaces seem the same to him and he certainly appears at home on soft or heavy ground. It is also worth noting, though, that one of the bumpers he won was on relatively good ground at Navan in April and he scored that day by 17 lengths.

Samcro oozes class, jumps great, possesses plenty of speed, and all the indications are will stay as well. As of now this is a horse without flaws.

Are we all guilty of simply getting carried away, on the basis that much sterner tests lie ahead?

Falling for too much hype can be seriously injurious to the pocket, but here’s a prediction for the season. I will be amazed if Samcro ever starts odds against, or evens, until beaten. The hype may well prove more than justified.

I can’t claim to know much about trainer Ray Hackett but I can say he has done some job with Crackerdancer.

I fancied the seven-year-old in a bumper at Navan back on April 1, imagine fancying a horse that day, and the well-backed 11-4 shot, delightfully, made every yard of the running to take what shaped as a decent enough contest by 20 lengths.

Crackerdancer, under a double penalty for winning two races, reappeared in a Listed bumper at Navan last Sunday and, in the testing conditions she loves, was a real live one again.

But this was wide open and because the daughter of Robin Des Champs wasn’t representing a more fashionable outfit I decided to let Crackerdancer pass me by.

After all this was her first outing in 239 days and it would be some feat for a small yard to have her ready to rock and roll. Crackerdancer then proceeded to make all at 5-1.

We won’t make the same mistake again when it comes to Mr Hackett. Ah yes, smart boy wanted, but not too smart!

Punters, at least plenty of them, were entitled to feel short-changed after Willie Mullins’ Sharjah had beaten his two market rivals, Shady Operator and Roaring Bull, in a novice hurdle at Gowran Park last Saturday.

I didn’t have a bet, couldn’t choose between the trio, and settled down to be educated, fully expecting Sharjah and Paul Townend to make the running.

But Townend had other ideas and immediately looked for a lead, after the starter had let the five-strong field go.

What followed was a total farce, with Davy Russell a reluctant frontrunner on Roaring Bull, who didn’t seem to have a clue what was required in his unexpected role.

In the end, Sharjah quickened up best to win by an easy four lengths to justify Townend’s smart tactics.

The time of the race, however, was almost 23 seconds slower than Carter McKay took to win the earlier maiden hurdle and the chances are the form won’t prove worth the paper it’s written on.

Hands up if you were one of those willing to trade as short as 2-1 Acapella Bourgeois in last Sunday’s savagely competitive 21-runner Troytown Handicap Chase at Navan.

Returned the 7-4 favourite and a faller at the seventh, that has to qualify as just about the worst value of the year. It really was Willie Mullins-mania gone daft!

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