Eddie O'Leary refutes claims Road To Riches was ridden too forcibly in Irish Gold Cup
Published 10/02/2016 | 14:06
Racing manager Eddie O'Leary insists no decisions will be made until Festival week on which horses represent Gigginstown House Stud in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup.
It is 10 years since Ryanair supremo Michael O'Leary's racing empire claimed Gold Cup glory with War Of Attrition, but the team have every chance of repeating the feat next month after assembling a formidable hand of staying chasers that includes Gordon Elliott's ante-post favourite Don Cossack and the Willie Mullins-trained Don Poli.
The Gigginstown-owned Road To Riches, trained by Noel Meade, was third in the blue riband last March but was a beaten favourite in Saturday's Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown, leading to suggestions he could be rerouted to the shorter Ryanair Chase - a race the sponsors have not yet won.
Eddie O'Leary says talk of firming up Festival plans is premature, however, and is prepared to forgive Road To Riches his defeat in testing conditions.
He said: "The ground was brutal in Leopardstown and that was never going to suit him, so we're not despondent.
"Like all of them, it will be between the Gold Cup and the Ryanair and we'll decide during the week of the race.
"It will depend on the health of the two Dons (Don Cossack and Don Poli) and the ground."
O'Leary does not subscribe to a theory put forward by some that Gigginstown's retained rider Bryan Cooper rode too forceful a race aboard Meade's stable star.
He said: "Bryan rode him as he saw fit and that's grand for us.
"He rode him the same way at Cheltenham last year and he finished third in the Gold Cup. It's just a ground issue."
Another Gigginstown runner in contention for the same Festival races is Valseur Lido, who may well have won the Irish Gold Cup but for making a mess of the final fence and unseating Ruby Walsh.
His apparent emergence as a major force further muddies the waters for Cooper, who will have some tough choices to make.
O'Leary said: "Whether Valseur Lido run in the Gold Cup or the Ryanair we'll wait and see, but he was running a super race and he's thrown his hat into the ring.
"Bryan will ride whichever horse he feels has the best chance in both races."