Meade revises plans in bid to keep chasing stars apart
Noel Meade has already started working out a plan of campaign so that his leading chasers Road To Riches and Apache Stronghold do not clash during the early part of the season.
The former champion trainer is reconsidering his options for Cheltenham Gold Cup third Road To Riches after owners Gigginstown House Stud decided against letting him defend his crown in Saturday's JNwine.com Champion Chase, instead choosing to field the impressive Don Cossack in the Down Royal feature.
The Clonmel Oil Chase on Thursday is a potential alternative, but that Grade Two event is also an option for Apache Stronghold, which has not been seen since finishing third at Punchestown in the spring. The John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase in early December is also on the radar for both horses.
"Road To Riches in great form, but they (Gigginstown) decided to run Don Cossack and we had to take a back seat," said Meade. "Bryan (Cooper) rode him in a bit of work at the Curragh the previous Saturday over a mile and a furlong and he worked really well. He was ready to run on Saturday.
"It looks like Don Cossack is going to go for the King George and we'll go for the Lexus. He'll also get an entry in the King George. We'll look at races like the Morris Oil at Clonmel and the Durkan. Ger Fox rides him out at home and thinks he's a stronger horse this year.
"He had a very hard race at Cheltenham. It was as tough a race as you could imagine. They were flat out from the top of the hill and I'm not surprised he disappointed after at Punchestown."
Apache Stronghold had been pencilled for Saturday's Powers Irish Whiskey Chase at Down Royal before suffering a setback.
Meade said: "He was due to run at Down Royal, but he gave himself a rap and missed about a week. It's quite possible that he could look at the Morris Oil or the Durkan, but ideally I don't want to run him and Road To Riches in the same race.
"I think he gets three miles and we'll probably run him in the Lexus and see how he gets on. Down the road the Ryanair Chase is an obvious target at Cheltenham, if he shows us he's not getting the three miles.
"Paul (Carberry) came back in after he finished second at Cheltenham last season and said he ran very well, but the other fellow (Vautour) is a machine."
The Co Meath handler worked around a dozen horses in front of the gathered media yesterday morning. Wounded Warrior, placed at Cheltenham and Punchestown last spring, was due to be part of the contingent strutting their stuff, but has suffered a setback.
"He was cast in his box last week," said the trainer. "He's a huge horse and I've always thought the world of him. He could improve a lot and he wants a trip on soft ground. I tried to get Michael (O'Leary) to enter him in the Hennessy at Newbury, but he wouldn't have it."
Meade's Monksland is set to make his seasonal reappearance in the Lismullen Hurdle at Navan on Sunday.
Despite an absence of exactly two years, the eight-year-old ran good races in defeat last season, placing in the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown before being touched off by Dedigout in the Galmoy Hurdle at Gowran in January.
Monksland was unable to land a blow in the World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, but the trainer is pleased with his current condition.
Meade expects last year's Punchestown Champion Bumper runner-up Disko to take high rank in the novice hurdle division this season, despite suffering an odds-on defeat on his debut over obstacles at Galway recently.
"The ground was a bit too quick for him at Galway, especially over two miles," he said. "He'll be a better horse next time and I'll be very disappointed if he's not up with the best of them this year."