Last season’s star novice hurdler suffered a shock reverse on his seasonal reappearance at Down Royal last month, but was nevertheless heavily-backed into favouritism as he took on Nicky Henderson’s dual Champion Hurdle hero Buveur D’Air in the Fighting Fifth at Gosforth Park.
Buveur D’Air ultimately swept the young pretender aside readily – but O’Leary insists Gordon Elliott’s stable star will stay over timber for the remainder of this season, with the Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown his likely next port of call.
O’Leary told At The Races on Sunday: “We were reasonably happy with the run – he got well spanked by Buveur D’Air, but Buveur D’Air is a double champion and he was 15 lengths clear of last season’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner (Summerville Boy).
“So I see no reason to change the plan, the plan was always we’d keep him hurdling this year and hopefully he’ll go to Leopardstown at Christmas for the Ryanair Hurdle and he’ll go hopefully back to Leopardstown in February for the Irish Champion Hurdle there.
“Then we’ll take on Buveur D’Air again at Cheltenham – there’s no point in giving Buveur D’Air the Champion Hurdle trophy today, so let’s see what happens.”
Samcro’s defeat Newcastle left many questioning whether Samcro should now pursue a career over fences – as was being considered during the summer.
However, O’Leary is happy with the decision to keep to the smaller obstacles and is confident his charge can at least close the gap on Buveur D’Air in March.
He added: “We have Mengli Khan for two miles and I have an array of three-mile and two-and-a-half-mile novice chasers.
“It (hurdling) was a logical choice, he’s the only Champion Hurdle horse we have that could possibly win a Champion Hurdle – unlikely based on what Buveur D’Air did yesterday, but they are animals, not machines.
“I don’t think a pacemaker would have made any difference to the result. Buveur D’Air ran out of his skin, it was his first run of the season and he’ll come on for it, but there’ll a much faster pace in the Champion Hurdle and they’ll be galloping up a hill.
“He’ll certainly get closer to Buveur D’Air, but on the basis of yesterday it is hard to see him beating him.”
Barry Geraghty partnered Buveur D’Air once again and feels it is not out of the question the JP McManus-owned seven-year-old is better than ever this season following a wind operation.
“He’s deadly – I’ve never ridden anything as quick over a hurdle. He is electric and makes ground without doing anything,” said the jockey.
“To win one Champion Hurdle is hard enough and he won a second without firing on all six cylinders.
“I’d say there must be an improvement there. He’s probably clearer of his wind than he was before.
“I wouldn’t say we crawled yesterday. We didn’t go quick, but we didn’t go crawl – the time was good.
“If the race had been run 10 times I’m not sure the result would have been any different.”