Tony Keenan would like to see more from Sam­cro and Foot­pad

Racing Ahead - - CONTENTS -

Tony Keenan with his lat­est views on the Ir­ish NH scene

COM­ING out of the au­tumn, Sam­cro and Foot­pad were prob­a­bly the two Na­tional Hunt horses rac­ing fans were most look­ing for­ward to. On one level, it makes no sense that we want to see the grad­u­at­ing novices rather than the proven cham­pi­ons like Buveur D’Air and Al­tior, but un­tapped po­ten­tial and the hope of find­ing a true su­per­star drives in­ter­est in the game.

Sam­cro was un­beaten when stand­ing up over hur­dles, Foot­pad was un­beaten over fences full stop, and both were trad­ing strong sec­ond favourites for the Cham­pion Hur­dle and Cham­pion Chase at the start of Novem­ber in the face of the afore­men­tioned Hen­der­son pair.

Nei­ther came close to match­ing ex­pec­ta­tions on their re­spec­tive re­turns, though Sam­cro went with more en­cour­age­ment. Faced with an ap­par­ent So­phie’s choice of the Cham­pion Hur­dle this sea­son or the Gold Cup in 2020, Gig­gin­stown opted for the for­mer and while Sam­cro lacked the wow fac­tor on re­turn at Down Royal, he showed enough to say more Grade 1s are on the way.

His late with­drawal from the Mor­giana Hur­dle on ac­count of the ground be­ing too quick meant we re­main in the dark about whether he has the speed for a Cham­pion Hur­dle though at least a horse that fin­ished be­hind him at Down Royal (Shar­jah) won the race. Still, per­haps races over in­ter­me­di­ate trips will suit him best though the Hat­ton’s Grace (pre­viewed later) seems off the agenda with the Fight­ing Fifth ap­par­ently next up.

Foot­pad has much more to prove. Jump­ing had been a strength as a novice, his only real mis­take com­ing down the back in the Arkle, but from the early stages of his Naas re­turn he was big at his fences be­fore more se­ri­ous er­rors fol­lowed. He ul­ti­mately fell at the last when seem­ingly beaten by Saint Cal­va­dos who him­self had not fenced smoothly. Foot­pad’s trainer re­ported af­ter­wards that he had suf­fered an over­reach. Some sug­gested that a step up in trip might suit and he did stay much fur­ther than two miles over hur­dles but he is likely to strug­gle at any dis­tance if jump­ing like he did at Naas.

Horses can of course re­turn to form af­ter be­low-par ef­forts and Ap­ple’s Jade is a case in point; hav­ing twice dis­ap­pointed when in and out of sea­son last spring. Gor­don El­liott seemed to have re­solved the is­sues of man­ag­ing her men­strual cy­cles in the Lis­mullen Hur­dle at Na­van as she ran out an 11length win­ner. That sets her up for the Hat­ton’s Grace Hur­dle at Fairy­house on De­cem­ber 2 where she will bid to win the race for the third time, a feat achieved by both Lime­stone Lad and So­le­rina in the past.

She is very much the one to beat there though Wil­lie Mullins will cer­tainly have some am­mu­ni­tion to fire at the race, not least Melon. The Cham­pion Hur­dle sec­ond was an in­tended run­ner in the Mor­giana but worked poorly in the lead-up to the race and Mullins in­stead ran Faugh­een; that didn’t work out well for the horse as he got beaten at 2/5 but sub­stan­tial im­prove­ment can ex­pected.

The trainer re­ported in a re­cent sta­ble tour that he may need the run as, un­like in 2017 when he had been in train­ing for most of the sum­mer ahead


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