PAT KEANE: Let’s just hope Samcro and Laurina clash at Punchestown

Samcro's success in the Ballymore Novice Hurdle at Prestbury Park was mildly disappointing, writes Pat Keane

The talk coming out of Fairyhouse earlier this week is there is at least the possibility Samcro and Laurina might take each-other on at the Punchestown festival at the end of the month and we can only pray that will prove the case.

These are two terrific young horses and if they meet it will tell us more about them than any of the races they have contested so far.

Samcro has never been beaten in eight outings, a point-to-point, three bumpers and four times over hurdles.

Laurina failed to score in two spins in her native France, but is four from four over flights since arriving in Ireland to be trained by Willie Mullins.

I have never dreamed of opposing Samcro and equally have felt Laurina was unbeatable since seeing her win her second race in this country, a Grade 3 at Fairyhouse in late January, by 11 lengths. But if they clash something, obviously, has to give.

Both won at the Cheltenham festival and it would have been a major shock had that not been the case.

As a long-time massive fan of Samcro, however, I have to say his win in the Ballymore Novice Hurdle at Prestbury Park was slightly disappointing.

And it’s only because I regard the six-year-old so highly that the opinion could in any way justified about a horse that, after all, won easily by two and three parts of a length.

There are early indications, however, that tell us the Ballymore may have been a less than vintage renewal.

Willie Mullins’ Scarpeta was beaten about eight lengths into fourth and he reappeared at Fairyhouse last Sunday to finish over ten lengths third in a Grade 2 behind the nine-year-old Pallasator.

Fifth in the Ballymore was another Mullins inmate, Duc Des Genievres, just a length adrift of Scarpeta.

He also turned up in the Pallasator race at Fairyhouse and ran a shocker to fill a remote fifth. You can argue that Cheltenham may have taken the edge off both him and Scarpeta, but it is rather worrying nonetheless.

That said, a few little things didn’t go Samcro’s way at Cheltenham and chances are is much better than he looked on the day. But the seeds of doubt have been sewn.

Laurina is potentially a brilliant mare and, say what you want about the quality of the opposition, her 18 lengths demolition job on the field at Cheltenham, in the Trull House Stud Mares’ Novice Hurdle, was deeply impressive.

She followed up at Fairyhouse on Sunday with another stroll in the park, landing a Grade 1 by an unflattering eight and a-half-lengths.

Since coming to Ireland Laurina has only run in races confined to mares, so we do remain in the dark somewhat as to her true ability.

We know the plan is for both horses to turn up at Punchestown and, hopefully, it will be in the same race. Laurina would be in receipt of the 7lbs mares’ allowance and we couldn’t ask for a better conclusion to, perhaps, a less than satisfactory season overall.

Anyone agree that the Irish National on Monday at Fairyhouse was a bit of a bore, from start to finish?

Conditions were atrocious and 30 horses attempting to slog their guts out does not figure high on the entertainment scale to my way of thinking.

I use the word attempting advisedly, because only eight of them actually endured the entire three-miles and five furlongs.

I saw this National as a moderate contest for a massive amount of money, with horses hitting the deck all over the place — which wasn’t much of a spectacle.

And how Gigginstown’s General Principle proved capable of winning left me totally perplexed. Gigginstown’s Eddie O’Leary was reported as saying he didn’t believe the horse would stay and I was very much in his camp.

I had good reason for thinking it as well, having backed General Principle to win the race a year ago. On a surface that was way quicker than Monday’s, good to yielding, he was given an excellent drive by Bryan Cooper.

Returned at 16-1, I was probably on at odds a bit better than that, I had notions for much of the marathon journey of a really good pay-day, for relatively small money.

Cooper took his time, but when he asked General Principle to close down the leaders approaching the straight there was nothing in the tank and the horse eventually finished a remote fifth behind Our Duke. He shaped as a clear non-stayer and, out of form coming into Monday’s race, how could you make any sort of case for him?

Oh, and spare a thought for Cooper, who has seen his fortunes dip so much since losing the job as number one to Gigginstown.

On Monday he was aboard the quietly fancied Willie Mullins-trained 14-1 shot Kemboy. When it rains, it pours and Kemboy fell at the first fence.

Pencil in May 5 as a racing day not to missed. Aidan O’Brien’s unbeaten Saxon Warrior will put his record on the line in the English 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, but the real excitement will centre around another Ballydoyle inmate that night when Mendelssohn runs in the Kentucky Derby.

No European horse has ever won the Kentucky Derby and I have no idea whether the son of Scat Daddy will prove good enough.

But having watched Mendelssohn make his debut on dirt at Meydan last Saturday, I simply cannot wait to see him face the surface for a second time.

You can argue he hadn’t a whole lot to beat, but was awesome in scoring by over eighteen lengths and it will be no surprise should Ryan More go Stateside and leave Saxon Warrior behind.

Backed a horse at Cork last Saturday called Shareva (5-2) and then watched in horror as the race unfolded.

Dermot Weld’s filly was cantering over her eight rivals for most of the straight, until tiring late on and being run down by Jessica Harrington’s 50-1 shot, Extrasensory.

Now Extrasensory’s previous two outings had seen her finish 13th of 13 at Bellewstown and 9th of 9 at Limerick.

Add in the fact she was available on the exchanges as high as 320-1, usually an indication this wouldn’t win if it started the day before, and it was almost enough to drive you to drink!


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