Trainer Noel Meade believes Road To Riches is a “stupid price” for today’s Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown.
Having struck twice at the highest level last season before finishing third in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, there is little doubt the nine-year-old brings the strongest form to the table and he looked as good as ever when winning on his seasonal return in November’s Clonmel Oil Chase.
However, he was unable to defend his crown in the Lexus Chase due to being under the weather over the Festive period and although Meade is confident his stable star is back firing on all cylinders following a pleasing racecourse gallop at Punchestown last Sunday, he feels bookmakers may have underestimated his task this weekend.
“Everything has gone well since Christmas and he seems in great shape. Ger Fox, who rides him at home, couldn’t be happier with him,” said the County Meath-based trainer.
“What will be will be and we’re just going there hoping for a clear run and a bit of luck, which you always need in these big races.
“The one thing I would say is I think he’s a stupid price.
“He’s entitled to be favourite, but he’s only 5lb clear on the ratings, so I wouldn’t expect him to be so short in the betting.”
Road To Riches is odds-on across the board to beat nine rivals, with Meade also fielding Wounded Warrior.
The seven-year-old was last seen chasing home Don Cossack in the Kinloch Brae Chase at Thurles and Meade thinks he is capable of making his presence felt.
He said: “He wasn’t that wound up for Thurles. He had a bit of a setback which held him up and it was pretty much a stepping-stone for him.
“He’s in good form and stepping back up to three miles will suit him. Three miles is the very minimum — the further they go, the better he’ll go. I think he’ll run well.”
Road To Riches and Wounded Warrior are just two of five runners for Gigginstown House Stud, with Willie Mullins-trained pair of Sir Des Champs and Valseur Lido and Mouse Morris’ admirable veteran First Lieutenant also carrying the famous maroon and white silks of Michael O’Leary’s operation.
Sir Des Champs and Valseur Lido are part of a three-pronged challenge for champion trainer Willie Mullins, who bids for a 10th victory in the race.
Sir Des Champs has suffered his fair share of injury problems since winning this prize three years ago and was never a factor in the Lexus Chase last time, while Valseur Lido was last seen falling at the final fence when well-beaten in the King George VI Chase at Kempton.
Mullins also runs On His Own, who was not beaten far in the Lexus and is once again ridden by the trainer’s son, Patrick.
Mullins junior said: “Road To Riches is the horse to beat, I think that’s pretty obvious, but we’ll give it a go.
“Sir Des Champs was disappointing in the Lexus, but it was his second run back after a lay-off and that can sometimes be a tricky run. His work has been good since.
“Valseur Lido is in good form. He was a little disappointing in the King George, we thought he’d run better than he did that day.
“Three miles is his trip and we think he’s up to running well in a race like this, but he has to go and prove it.
“I ride On His Own again. He ran a blinder for me in the Lexus and the blinkers helped him a lot.
“He tends to jump to his right, which isn’t ideal around Leopardstown, but if he runs like he did in the Lexus, he should pick up some prize-money again.”
Leading owner JP McManus is double-handed, with his retained rider Barry Geraghty siding with the progressive Gilgamboa over last year’s winner Carlingford Lough, who has not discovered his best form so far this season.
Gilgamboa’s trainer, Enda Bolger, said: “I was very happy with his run at Christmas.
“He came out of the Paddy Power well and we were delighted with the way he ran and the way he jumped.
“That race really made a man of him, being in the middle of 16 or 17 horses for most of the race.
“Obviously it’s a very hot race, but he stays well and he handles soft ground.”
Ted Walsh’s Foxrock was runner-up to Carlingford Lough 12 months ago and ran his best race since when third in the Lexus.
Owner Barry Connell said: “He has it to do on the ratings — Road To Riches is (rated) 165 and we’re 160 — but he’ll be bang there coming to the last and he’ll be hard to keep out of the money.”
A 10-strong field is completed by Stuart Crawford’s outsider Fine Rightly.
“He seems in good form and he’s improving all the time as well so we’re very hopeful he can step up to three miles now he’s learning to race a bit better,” said Crawford.
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