Samcro clings on in ding-dong Marsh battle as Faugheen goes down fighting in third

SAMCRO repaired his damaged reputation with a heart-pounding victory in the Marsh Novices' Chase.

Gordon Elliott's star chaser clung on by a flared nostril from the rallying Melon, with the veteran Faugheen a gallant third.

Once hailed the 'second coming', the eight-year-old's career had faltered badly since a memorable novice hurdling campaign in 2017-18.

And after early promise over fences, he again found himself on a retrieval mission having folded tamely behind Faugheen at Limerick over Christmas.

But there was nothing tame about this performance as, galvanised by a wind operation, he tanked around in the hands of Davy Russell.

He moved menacingly into the lead two out but was untidy – and at that point his backers could have been forgiven for thinking 'oh no, not again'.

But he winged the last and motored up the hill, with Melon, who has now finished second at an incredible four Festivals, falling agonisingly short under Patrick Mullins.

For a split second it seemed as though Faugheen might come over the top of the pair of them, but in the end he had to settle for bronze.

Elliott said: "Samcro is one of the favourites in the yard. Obviously he was in the doldrums for a while, so to get him back and win a Grade 1 in Cheltenham is something else.

"You can see how much it means to everyone in the yard. A lot of people have done a lot of work with this horse – they've spent day and night trying to get him right.

"He hasn't been scoping clean and it's been hard to get him to scope right. We've done a lot of different things, like building him a new stable, and he's pulled it off today.

"Everyone was knocking him, saying this and saying that. I probably even lost a bit of faith in him myself, but the horses are flying and I just can't believe it."

He added: "I am a bit of a pessimist, but I thought Melon had got us on the line, to be honest.

"He missed the second-last and Davy said that knocked the stuffing out of him. He jumped brilliantly apart from that.

"It was a great race to watch, with Melon, Faugheen and Samcro – that's what this place is all about."

Faugheen's owner Rich Ricci said: "I'm very, very proud of him. That was magic, he is a Festival legend.

"If we'd winged the third last maybe we would have got there, but he has run a great race."

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