Samcro’s victory was highlight for all-conquering Elliott

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Gordon Elliott pointed to the victory of Samcro as his highlight after saddling a record-equalling eight winners at this year’s Cheltenham Festival.

For the second year in a row, the County Meath handler pipped Willie Mullins to the Leading Trainer Award, with Blow By Blow’s success in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Hurdle on Friday meaning he beat his great rival by one.

Trainer Gordon Elliott and Jockey Jack Kennedy (right).

Trainer Gordon Elliott and Jockey Jack Kennedy (right).

Elliott claimed Grade One prizes with Shattered Love in the RSA Insurance Chase and Farclas in the JCB Triumph Hurdle, but it was the success of the unbeaten and much-heralded Samcro in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle on Wednesday that gave him the most satisfaction.

Speaking on Racing UK’s Luck On Sunday programme, the trainer said: “It was a great week, unbelievable. It started off slow but ended up brilliant.

“We had some lows on the first day, Apple’s Jade was one of our bankers but got turned over. That’s racing.

“I’d have to say Samcro was the main one. There was more pressure on him than on Don Cossack to win the Gold Cup (2016). Thankfully he delivered.

“He lost a shoe, he stumbled going across the road and a few different things happened, but I thought it was a very good performance.

“If you don’t put pressure on yourself you shouldn’t be doing it. Cheltenham is the Olympics and you need winners. Thankfully we had a few.”

Elliott’s eight winners and Mullins’ seven contributed to Irish trainers claiming 17 of the 28 races at the Festival.

“Irish racing is in a brilliant place at the moment,” Elliott added.

“There’s a lot of good horses and a lot of good owners who have horses in Ireland. I’m very lucky I have owners who have a lot of good horses.

“Willie is the standard and we have to keep chasing him and following him.”

Elliott’s principal riders Davy Russell and Jack Kennedy battled it out for the Leading Jockey Award at the Festival, with the former coming out on top on countback.

Elliott said: “Jack is 18 and Davy is 38. The two of them get on well and I’m very lucky to have the two of them riding for me. They fight their own corner and that’s the way it is.

“There’s no hiding place in Ireland, it’s very competitive and you can’t duck and dive.”

Minella Rocco will head straight for the Randox Health Grand National after sidestepping Friday’s Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Jonjo O’Neill’s charge filled the runner-up spot in last year’s Gold Cup behind Sizing John, one place ahead of this year’s winner Native River.

Despite a largely disappointing campaign so far, the JP McManus-owned eight-year-old was set for another appearance in the blue riband before being taken out of the race on the morning of the race due to the prevailing testing conditions at Prestbury Park.

O’Neill said: “The ground was going to be no good for him in the Gold Cup really as he wants nice ground.

“He is in good form at home and the plan is to go to Aintree now for the Grand National.

“Hopefully the ground will dry out between now and then and they will get nice ground up there.”

Minella Rocco is a general 20-1 shot for the Grand National on April 14.