Two years ago, running off a mark of 149 and carrying 10-11, Road To Riches turned the Galway Plate into a procession. Twenty-four months on, despite having to lumber top weight of 11-10 and run off a mark of 162, a repeat can be expected.
That unforgettable performance – his last in a handicap - was just the beginning, as he went on to Grade 1 glory in the Lexus Chase of that season, before finishing third behind Coneygree in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Last season didn’t quite go to plan, with the Clonmel Oil Chase his sole success. However, he ran a huge race in defeat behind Vautour in the Ryanair Chase, and was still heavily involved until falling at the second-last in the Punchestown Gold Cup.
This is clearly a drop in grade for the top-class nine-year-old, and his jockey, Bryan Cooper, is sure to set out to make this a real test. He has the ability to set and maintain a gallop which will take most of his rivals out of their comfort zone, and can lead them a merry dance all the way.
Home Farm is much better than his most recent form-lines suggest, and is respected off 10-6, while a good run from Ravished, at huge odds, would not be a major surprise.
Aspen Mountain can land the Tote handicap for David Wachman. Winner of a Dundalk maiden on his second and final start as a juvenile, he made his return in a Curragh handicap, in which he was noted finished well in fifth place, beaten four and a half lengths, behind Creggs Pipes. The winner has done plenty for the form, and is now 23lbs higher.
Aspen Mountain was well backed to score next time, at Killarney, and failed by the narrowest of margins when touched off by The Mouse Doctor. But that form has also been boosted, with the third and fourth both winning subsequently.
Still lightly raced and unexposed, sporting cheekpieces for the first time, and from a stable which has hit form in recent weeks, a big can be expected.
It’s difficult to look beyond Silver Concorde in the opening maiden hurdle, but he will be priced accordingly. The second race looks far more competitive but the two which make most appeal are Crystal Pearl and Sweet Cherry.
The former, trained by Charles Byrnes, was heavily backed to land a flat maiden at this meeting last year, and found only Benkei too good. Given the winner is now 21lbs higher and finished in the frame in Monday’s feature race, she was probably unlucky to come up against one.
While she hasn’t been in superb form over jumps, she gets in here off a mark of 109 and that looks more than manageable for a mare who won a maiden hurdle.
She is just preferred to Sweet Cherry, who impressed in winning a maiden hurdle at Kilbeggan, and has since run well on the flat and over jumps.
Sea Light, a stable companion of Crystal Pearl, is one of the more interesting runners in the thetote.com handicap hurdle, and she gets the nod ahead of Crown Of Gold.
A lightly raced eight-year-old mare, she won three on the bounce in late 2013, but hasn’t enjoyed much luck since. Last time out, however, there were some signs of a return to form, and if she can build on that she will go close.
Crown Of Gold is also respected off a mark of 116. His early form in maidens suggested he was destined for better things, but he is yet to get off the mark.
With his stable having hit form, and plenty of time for him to realise his potential, he must be give plenty of respect.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved