By Racinguk.com staff
The imposing chestnut gelding was knocked down to Michael O'Leary's Gigginstown House Stud operation for a mammoth £335,000 after winning his only start in the point-to-point field.
He has lived up to the billing so far, however, winning three bumpers and twice over hurdles, most recently claiming Grade Three honours in the "Monksfield" Novice Hurdle at Navan.
Saturday's Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors Novice Hurdle over two and three-quarter miles appeared his most likely target this weekend, but Gordon Elliott's charge instead returns to two miles for his first assignment at Grade One level.
Elliott said: "He's in great form. I couldn't be happier with the horse.
"We just decided on the real heavy ground the two-mile-six might be a bit much for him this weekend. Shane McCann rides him every day, he's a very good judge of a horse and he was very keen for me to go for the two-mile race, as were Michael and Eddie (O'Leary). We all had a chat together and we felt this was the best race to go for."
A much-anticipated clash with the Willie Mullins-trained Next Destination at Naas last month failed to come to fruition after Samcro returned a dirty scope in the days leading up the race, but Elliott is confident his charge is back in peak condition.
He added: "He's been 100 per cent. He didn't miss a day riding out (after the dirty scope), but with horses like that you can't mess with them."
Willie Mullins has saddled a record six previous winners of the Deloitte, including each of the last five, and this year fires a four-pronged assault.Samcro will drop in distance on Sunday (PA)
Sharjah appears the champion trainer's main hope, having tipped up at the final flight when travelling like the winner in the Future Champions Novice Hurdle here over Christmas.
He is joined by Real Steel, who also fell at the last when upsides Sharjah, the eventual winner Whiskey Sour and Duc Des Genievres, who was an eyecatching third behind Next Destination at Naas at the start of January.
Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father, said: "I think Sharjah has gone a little bit under the radar.
"Obviously he fell at Christmas, but he was in the process of putting up a huge performance at the time and the way I see it Samcro has to come up to his level of form, not the other way round. It's certainly going to be interesting.
"It looks a red-hot race, as good as any novice hurdle that will be run in Cheltenham I would think.
"Real Steel ran a funny race at Christmas as he gave them a head start before running on and was upsides in front when he fell at the last. If he isn't as lackadaisical on Sunday then he should run well.
"Whiskey Sour is in a similar boat. He's won over a mile and a half on the Flat at Galway, so he shouldn't be too slow to lie up in a two-mile hurdle race, but it took him a while to get into it as well.
"Duc Des Genievres ran a fantastic race on his Irish debut in a Grade One. He's coming back to two miles and this will tell us plenty about where we're heading with him."Sharjah looks the principal hope of Willie Mullins (PA)
Debuchet is an interesting contender for Mags Mullins.
The five-year-old grey was runner-up to the ill-fated Fayonagh in the Champion Bumper at last season's Cheltenham Festival, but was beaten into fourth on his hurdling debut at this venue over Christmas.
Mullins said: "It was a bit of a rush to get him to Christmas and he just blew up.
"He seems in good form since and hopefully he's improved. It's a very strong race on Sunday and if he could be placed, I'd be charmed.
"He's taking on horses with more experience than him and it won't be easy, but he's got to take these horses on if he's going to take them on again in March. We'll find out if he's up to it or not."
Henry de Bromhead runs course-and-distance winner Paloma Blue, as well as the Gigginstown-owned Trainwreck.
Joseph O'Brien's pair of Early Doors and Le Richebourg, and the Tom Mullins-trained Top Othe Ra complete the 11-strong field.
Gavin Cromwell is hopeful Espoir D'Allen can rise to the challenge of his biggest test to date in the Tattersalls Ireland Spring Juvenile Hurdle.Espoir D'Allen seeks to extend his winning spree (PA)
The JP McManus-owned four-year-old has won each of his four starts since touching down on Irish soil, most recently claiming a Grade Two prize at this venue over Christmas.
He steps up to Grade One level on his return to the Foxrock circuit and will be a hot favourite to maintain his unbeaten record at the expense of four rivals.
Cromwell said: "He's done nothing wrong so far and hopefully he's still improving.
"We're looking forward to the race and it's exciting to be going there with a horse with a big chance on a big day.
"It's time for him to step up and we'll see what he can do. The ground should be fine for him."
The Elliott-trained Farclas was just over a length behind Espoir D'Allen over the festive period and given that was his hurdling debut, it is no surprise that some fancy him to turn the tables.
Elliott said: "He's definitely improved a lot. It was unbelievable to think he was taking on those horses for his first run over hurdles and he was only beaten just over a length.
"I know Gavin's horse is very good, and he probably only just keeps pulling out enough, but our lad has improved and he's in very good order."
Elliott also saddles Mitchouka, who won for the third time over hurdles at Fairyhouse three weeks ago, but appears held on previous form with Espoir D'Allen.
Willie Mullins relies on Mr Adjudicator, who was an impressive winner on his jumping bow over the course and distance.
Patrick Mullins said: "We were delighted with Mr Adjudicator over Christmas. His jumping was very good and he settled great for an ex-Flat horse.
"We're very excited about him. Gavin Cromwell's horse obviously sets the standard and it will be interesting to see where our horse fits in around him."
Elliott and Mullins are responsible for nine of the 11 runners in the Grade One Flogas Novice Chase. Elliott is represented by Sutton Place, Dounikos, The Storyteller and Tombstone, while a five-strong Mullins team is made up of Al Boum Photo, Bon Papa, Invitation Only, Koshari and Rathvinden.
"Sutton Place won well first time over fences in Fairyhouse and the form was franked with Willie's horse (Kemboy) winning since. You'd probably like to have a bit more experience, but we are where we are," said Elliott.
"Dounikos is two out of two, and I think The Storyteller would have given Invitation Only a good run for it if he didn't make a bad mistake at the second-last the last day.
"Tombstone hasn't been easy to train and he's had plenty of problems, but on his day he's a good horse."
Patrick Mullins, who takes the ride on Rathvinden, said: "It looks a very strong race and I don't think there are too many no-hopers in there.
"Al Boum Photo looked like he was going to win the Grade Two in Limerick over Christmas until he fell at the last. He's schooled well since and we're expecting a big performance, but at the same time the main thing we want from him is a clear round.
"Invitation Only finally looks to be showing the potential we thought he had as a bumper horse. He was good in Punchestown the last day and we're expecting a big run.
"Koshari was behind Invitation Only last time. His jumping needs to sharpen up a bit but he's a talented horse.
"I ride Rathvinden, who was brought down over Christmas, but ran a good race to finish second the time before.
"We think he might be a horse for the four-miler (National Hunt Chase) in Cheltenham, so it will be good to get a feel of him."
De Bromhead's Monalee, pictured above, bids to bounce back from a heavy fall at Christmas.
De Bromhead said: "He had a horrific fall here and then got a good kicking after that.
"We were worried about him for the first few days, but it was amazing how he really seems to have come back to himself."
The line-up is completed by Noel Meade's course-and-distance winner Snow Falcon.
A 20-strong field for the opening Irish Stallion Farms EBF Paddy Mullins Mares Handicap Hurdle includes the Mullins-trained trio of Meri Devie, Court Artist and Contingency, as well as British challengers Lady Buttons (Phil Kirby) and Canelie (Harry Fry).
Mullins' Ladbrokes Trophy hero Total Recall is all the rage for the William Fry Handicap Hurdle, competing off a mark 31lb lower than his chase rating.
Leading hopes for the Chanelle Pharma Handicap Chase include the Fry-trained Hell's Kitchen and O'Brien's Vieux Morvan.
The inaugural Dublin Racing Festival comes to an end with the Coolmore N.H. Sires Irish EBF Mares I.N.H. Flat Race, in which Mullins again appears to hold a formidable hand with Colreevy and Relegate.
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