Road To Riches to skip Durkan challenge

Noel Meade is set to rely upon likely outsider Texas Jack in the John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase on Sunday after the trainer confirmed Road To Riches and Apache Stronghold will miss the Grade One.

Road To Riches to skip Durkan challenge

Cheltenham Gold Cup third Road To Riches had headed the ante-post betting for the two-and-a-half-mile contest after he made an impressive reappearance in the Clonmel Oil Chase last month.

But he is instead being held back for an appearance over the Festive period, with the William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton and the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown among his options.

Apache Stronghold, one of last season’s leading novice chasers, has not yet made his comeback after suffering a minor injury.

Meade said: “We’ll run Texas Jack in the Durkan.

“Apache Stronghold won’t run. He just had a very slight setback, so we’ll look towards Christmas for him now.

“Road To Riches will be out over Christmas somewhere as well, hopefully. We’ll see where we go nearer the time.”

Meanwhile, the newly-named Neville Hotels Novice Chase at Leopardstown is next on the agenda for Meade’s Monksland following his fine effort in defeat at Fairyhouse on Sunday.

The high-class but injury-prone staying hurdler made a fine start to his career over fences when striking gold at Gowran Park earlier in the month and Meade decided to let him turn out again just eight days later for the Drinmore Novice Chase.

Monksland performed with plenty of credit to fill the runner-up spot behind No More Heroes, ante-post favourite for the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, and Meade is looking forward to seeing his charge step back up in distance over the Festive period.

He said: “He ran well. He’ll be a better over a bit further. He seems fine this morning and hopefully we can keep him right, that’s the main thing with him.

“All going well we’ll look to go to Leopardstown over Christmas for the Fort Leney (Neville Hotels Novice Chase), back over three miles.”

First Lieutenant could now also be Leopardstown-bound following his fine effort in the Hennessy Gold Cup on Saturday.

Mouse Morris’s Irish raider repeated his 2012 performance by taking third place in the prestigious staying handicap chase, this time behind Smad Place.

Morris had not expected such a sterling display in the gruelling conditions and reports the 10-year-old to have arrived back at his County Tipperary base none the worse.

“He’s grand and came home safe and sound.” said the Fethard handler.

“I was delighted with him. He’s got his sparkle back this year.

“When the ground went soft he had no chance, but he still ran a great race.”

First Lieutenant has run at Leopardstown’s festive fixture for the last five years.

His last three appearances have been in the Lexus Chase, but he will not be aimed at the feature as his owner, Gigginstown House Stud, look like having a strong hand that includes last year’s winner Road To Riches.

“I’m not sure where next, but maybe something over Christmas, possibly the Paddy Power or another handicap at Leopardstown,” said Morris.

“He won’t be going for the Lexus. We’ll just chip away and freshen him up.”

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