Noel Meade reports Road To Riches to be ‘bouncing’ ahead of his bid for Irish Gold Cup glory tomorrow.
In the absence of fellow Gigginstown chasers Don Poli and Don Cossack and the Willie Mullins-trained Vautour, Road To Riches is the hot favourite to register a third victory at the highest level.
The nine-year-old has only run once this season, easing to a six-length victory over Bright New Dawn in the Clonmel Oil Chase in November.
An infection prevented him from defending his Lexus Chase crown at Christmas but he delighted connections — jockey Bryan Cooper in particular — on a racecourse gallop with stable-mate and fellow Irish Gold Cup hopeful Wounded Warrior at Punchestown last Sunday.
“Watching it, I was very happy with the way it went, but when I went down to meet Bryan, the smile on his face really told me everything,” Meade said.
“He was thrilled with him and said he felt in terrific form. He’s come out of the piece of work well, he’s in great shape and hopefully we’ll get him to Saturday in that shape. He seems to be bouncing.”
However, Meade insists tomorrow’s race is not merely a trial for next month’s Cheltenham Gold Cup.
“It’s a Grade One.” he told RTÉ Sport. “It’s the Irish Gold Cup, it’s not a trial for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, though many people might say it is. It’s a top-class race. We’re not taking it any way lightly and we’re going out there to win it.”
That said, the Cheltenham Gold Cup is obviously the main focus and Meade believes if he can have his charge in the same sort of form next month as he was in Clonmel he can improve on last year’s showing when he found only Coneygree and Djakadam too good.
“If I have him as well as that (in Clonmel) for the Gold Cup I’ll be happy because he was jumping out of his skin,” Meade said.
“He was in terrific form for that race and hopefully we’ll have him back at that again. I really thought he was good as he could be that day.”
Reflecting on last year’s race, Meade said: “There wasn’t much we could do, the winner (Coneygree) was in front of him and from the last to the line he just faded a fraction, and Djakadam caught him on the run up to the line for second.
“But if you look back at the race he was the one who put it up to the winner, he just ran out of steam.
“For that reason, I always had it in my head this year that whether he ran in the Lexus or not I’d give him another run before the Gold Cup. It’s great to have them fresh but you do need to have them 100% for a Gold Cup.”
Meade is well aware, however, that the Willie Mullins team will provide formidable opposition.
“It looks very competitive,” he said. “It was hard to know with Djakadam falling the other day (at Cheltenham) what he would have done but I’m sure he would have been hard to beat in that race and he looks the one to beat at the moment.
“Vautour is another that has to be considered big time as well.”
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