Samcro: Gordon Elliott’s star will bid to get back on track at Leopardstown

Patrick McCann

One trainer 

In the last few days Paul Nicholls has been rampant. The ten-time champion trainer has made it clear he is still a force to be reckoned with, snaring big prizes with Quel Destin, Dynamite Dollars and Clan Des Obeaux. 

Topofthegame and Diego Du Charmil both ran huge races to be second in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase and Desert Orchid at Kempton, with bumper winners Flic Ou Voyou and Ask For Glory ensuring there is plenty of firepower to look forward to in the future too.

Paul Nicholls (right) returns to Kempton’s winner’s enclosure with King George hero Clan Des Obeaux

Edward Whitaker

He only saddles the one runner on Saturday, but it is in a Grade 1. Getaway Trump runs in the Challow Novices’ Hurdle (3.00) at Newbury having won his last two starts at Plumpton and Exeter. 

This is a big step up but Nicholls knows what it takes to win this race having scored with Cornish Rebel and the mighty Denman in the past.

One jockey 

It is great to see the north having a fruitful festive period with Simply Ned recording back-to-back Christmas Grade 1s at Leopardstown and so many others showing up well in big races.

Adam Nicol has ridden Lady Buttons, the flagbearer of Philip Kirby’s north Yorkshire yard, in all but one of her 24 starts, and the pair will bid for more glory in the MansionBet Yorkshire Silver Vase Mares’ Chase (2.05) at Doncaster. 

Adam Nicol and Lady Buttons (purple) will be bidding to make it three out of three for the season at Doncaster

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Nicol, who still claimed 5lb when he rode her to win her bumper in December 2013, rides the enthusiastic mare brilliantly. Although he won two races aboard her last season, this campaign has brought with it more success due to some smart placing. 

Lady Buttons cosily won a Listed hurdle at Wetherby before cantering away with a valuable prize over fences at Newbury, and it would be nice to see the partnership complete the hat-trick.

One horse

The Grade 1 Betway Challow Novices’ Hurdle (3.00) at Newbury is a strong contender for the one race to watch category, as the contest sees several of the most exciting youngsters around pitched into battle. 

Champ, presumably named after 20-time champion jockey Sir Anthony McCoy, has obviously been highly regarded from day one. 

Sir Anthony McCoy was often simply referred to as ‘Champ’


The winner of four of his six starts under rules, he also gains recognition as the horse who has managed to get closest to Kim Bailey’s unbeaten gelding Vinndication, whom he closed to within a neck in a novice hurdle at Ascot in January.

With a pedigree to match his promise – his dam is a half-sister to triple Gold Cup winner Best Mate – he produced a dominant display at this track last time, pulling his way through the field under a big weight and sticking on dourly in attritional conditions.

The performance saw him soar to the head of the market for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle and a win here would cement that position.  

One race

You could write a book on the shenanigans surrounding Samcro this season.

The decision to remain over hurdles got off to a surprising start when Bedrock beat him in the WKD Hurdle at Down Royal, and his reputation took another knock when Buveur D’Air pulverised him at Newcastle, leaving last season’s superstar novice looking a very vulnerable Champion Hurdle prospect. 

Will the decision by his connections to stay over hurdles be vindicated in what looks a fascinating renewal of a race they sponsor, the Ryanair Hurdle (2.30)?

The six-year-old will need to find some improvement to pick up his first win of the season, with last year’s narrow Champion Hurdle second Melon reappearing and Grade 1 winner Supasundae among the opposition. Morgiana winner Sharjah also adds extra allure to a captivating contest.

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