Battle Of The Unbeatens In The Ballymore Novices' Hurdle At Cheltenham Festival

Striking chestnut Samcro went into the year boasting a stunning unbeaten run, his CV showing five wins from five starts. That purple patch has caught the eye of odds-makers and punters alike, both eager to keep him onside in the early Cheltenham Festival betting.

Gordon Elliott’s six-year-old was expected to make a winning debut at Punchestown in the winter of 2016 and that’s exactly what he did, justifying favouritism when bagging a two-mile flat race with plenty to spare, nearest rival Arctic Light struggling home a full 9 ½ lengths behind.

The victor was quoted as short as 4/9 that day. Tight, but his price has continued to tumble as he’s progressed, including a win at 1/5 late last year when scooping a maiden hurdle, again at Punchestown. This time, runner-up Mind’s Eye was 15 lengths off.

Bringing 2017 to a close with another appearance in the winner’s enclosure, he stepped up to 2m 4f but it made little difference to the final result, with Samcro destroying the pack at Navan under the ride of Jack Kennedy.

How respected trainer Elliott steers Samcro’s year will hold the interest of horse racing fans across the board, with bookmakers quoting him near the head of the betting in both the Supreme Novices' Hurdle and Ballymore Novices' Hurdle at the upcoming Cheltenham Festival.

Concentrating on the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle, run on Wednesday 14th March, and a flick through the current betting on Oddschecker shows the respect bookmakers have for progressive gelding Samcro. Early February has him at the head of the list, with no more than 15/8 up for grabs. Tight, of course, especially at Prestbury Park, but it’s sure to attract a fair share of attention before the off.

Punters bold enough to allow their eyes to drift down the list will find a few of the main contenders available at bulky odds. Punters’ pal Willie Mullins holds a strong hand, one of his aces being Getabird. The six-year-old started 2018 four from four, another with an unblemished record to protect.

He won at Punchestown in mid-January, beating Mengli Khan by nine lengths in a two-mile slog in difficult conditions. Getabird is fancied to mount a challenge by some but traders remain undecided on his chances – which is great news for backers. Some in the market have him down as a 4/1 punt, while others are less confident, happy to offer a whopping 10/1. That’ll be difficult for value hunters to ignore.