SAMCRO and Davy Russell edged out Melon and Faugheen in a thrilling race for the Marsh Novices’ Chase on day 3 at Cheltenham.
The winning distance was a nose and the Youghal rider can take massive satisfaction from this victory. Samcro has had a chequered career since his last Festival success but returned to his best in a finish that had just about everything.
This was undoubtedly the race of the week as the pair battled it out up the famous hill and it could have gone either way, but in the end it was the Gordon Elliott-trained Samcro (4-1) who snatched the verdict on the line under Russell.
Faugheen with the packed stands willing him on was right behind the first two in third spot, with Mister Fisher fourth.
Russell said: “I thought the other horse was after chinning me to be honest. It was very tight altogether and the winning distance is a nose which is incredible after running two and half miles.
"Gordon (Elliot) has the horses in some order and they have worked wonders with this horse to get him back on track. My job is the easy part but there is a massive team behind this horse who have nursed him back to the top of his game. Getting a second winner is great and we’ll drive on now for Gold Cup day."
Barry Geraghty is having a brilliant meeting and his fourth winner of the week was Sire Du Berlais who just edged out The Storyteller and Davy Russell.
The winner and the runner-up travelled ominously well approaching the final hurdle but it was the JP McManus-owned 10-1 shot who found more up the run-in for Barry Geraghty. The result gave Gordon Elliott a memorable one-two.
After enjoying four successes on Wednesday and one on Tuesday, JP McManus was celebrating his sixth winner of the week.
With no disrespect meant to Russell and Townend the victory of Gavin Sheehan aboard Simply The Best was magnificent.
The Dunmanway jockey may not get the media attention he deserves but this was as good a ride you’ll see at Cheltenham. Simply The Betts has a cult following and the 3/1 favourite was all out to beat Happy Diva by a length.
Sheehan famously rode Cole Harden to win the Stayers Hurdle in 2015 and has to wait five years for a second success around here. The West Cork rider is enjoying a great season but this victory will attract plenty of more rides and positive media plaudits.
Simply The Betts – named after Chris Betts, a late friend of the owners and Saint Calvados visited the nearby Cheltenham yard of leading eventer Laura Collett for a schooling session on the way to the track.
It was a strategy that certainly paid off.
Whittington said: “I nearly changed the plan two days ago as I thought it would be terrible if something went amiss on the morning of the race but my assistant made sure we stuck to our guns.
“We did the same with Simply The Betts in January and it’s worked, so we’ll keep doing it.” It was a second festival victory for the hugely talented Gavin Sheehan who has had a few setbacks since that famous victory on Cole Harden in the Stayers’ Hurdle, and the rider was delighted to repay the support of the winning owners.
Sheehan said: “It’s special to ride another winner at the festival. He’s a fantastic horse, continues to get better and better over fences, and this is why I do the game, to give Kate and Andrew that buzz of a Cheltenham winner.”