Samcro beats Black Op in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle
Image supplied by HRI: Copyright Grossick Racing Photography

Gigginstown House Stud supremo Michael O’Leary left the door slightly ajar for Samcro to take on the big boys in the BETDAQ Punchestown Champion Hurdle on Friday week.

The six-year-old kept his unbeaten record and huge reputation intact with victory in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival and has four entries at Punchestown.

However, O’Leary revealed he will run in either the Champion Hurdle or the two-and-a-half-mile Profile Systems Champion Novice Hurdle on the same day.

A final decision on which race he will contest could come down to how trainer Gordon Elliott is faring in his battle with Willie Mullins to be crowned champion trainer.

“Generally speaking, we would want to keep the novices in the novice races,” O’Leary told At The Races.

“He’ll certainly run on the Friday. Unless Gordon is in real trouble on prize-money or something, I’d be reluctant to run him against the hardy, experienced hurdlers.

“He’s still reasonably inexperienced and a lot will depend on the ground, too.

“I’d lean in favour of the novice – I think that’s the race for him – but I wouldn’t rule out having a pop at the Champion if Buveur D’Air doesn’t show up and Gordon needs the help.”

The Gigginstown operation are likely to fire at least two bullets at the Coral Punchestown Gold Cup next Wednesday, with Noel Meade’s Road To Respect and the Henry de Bromhead-trained Balko Des Flos pencilled in to run.

However, Meade’s Disko – who has not been seen since winning at Down Royal in November – has been ruled out.

O’Leary added: “Sadly Disko won’t make it. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with him, he’s just had a series of niggles all year long, so we’ll pull stumps with him now and give him a good break.”

The leading owner also confirmed Identity Thief will attempt to back up last Saturday’s victory in the Ryanair Stayers Hurdle at Aintree in the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle at Punchestown 12 days later.

O’Leary added that Apple’s Jade is likely to defend her crown in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Annie Power Mares Champion Hurdle on Saturday week.