Samcro remains on course to make his next appearance in the Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown.
Having extended his winning sequence to seven at the Cheltenham Festival in March, the sky looked the limit for the Gordon Elliott-trained gelding.
However, he fell at the Punchestown Festival when taking on more experienced rivals and has been beaten in two runs this season, by Bedrock at Down Royal and then when put in his place by dual champion hurdler Buveur D’Air in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle.
Gordon Elliott discusses some of his stars with Niall Hannity
Samcro was entered in the Long Walk Hurdle over three miles at Ascot, but Elliott is maintaining the two-mile plan for now, although he is realistic about the task the six-year-old faces in reversing form with Buveur D’Air.
“Samcro is in good form and Leopardstown (December 29) is the plan,” said Elliott.
“He’s working well and we’re happy with him, but he’s going to have to improve a lot on his last run to win a Champion Hurdle.”
Meanwhile, leading Champion Hurdle contender Laurina could be seen at Sandown in January, as Willie Mullins continues to look for a suitable spot for the eagerly-awaited reappearance of his mare.
Behind only Buveur D’Air in the ante-post market for the two-mile showpiece at Cheltenham in March, the five-year-old skipped an engagement in the International Hurdle at Prestbury Park over the weekend because of ground conditions.
Mullins has already flagged up the possibility of an early clash with Buveur D’Air at Kempton Park in the Unibet Christmas Hurdle (December 26), while the Ryanair Hurdle and Cheltenham (Relkeel Hurdle on New Year’s Day) are also in the mix.
Willie Mullins talks to Donn McClean about Laurina
And now the 32Red.Com Mares’ Hurdle Race on January 6 has been added to the list of options.
Mullins said: “Laurina has options at Leopardstown, the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton, the Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham and I think there is a mares’ race in Sandown.
“The ground is paramount and I want to have soft or heavy in the ground for her first run of the season.”