Meade's 'Riches' may have to fly lower class Ryanair at Festival
Last year's Gold Cup third Road To Riches will have just its second start of the season in what is this year being titled the Irish Gold Cup, but yesterday Noel Meade was unable to confirm that his charge would be aimed at the original version at Cheltenham in March.
With Road To Riches' owner Michael O'Leary possessing so many options in the staying chase department via his Gigginstown Stud banner, Meade accepts that the less prestigious Ryanair Chase might still be on the agenda. Available at odds of between 12/1 and 14/1 for the Timico-sponsored Gold Cup, his nine-year-old trades much shorter for the Grade One that O'Leary sponsors, as low as 5/1.
"I hope he wouldn't switch targets, but one never knows," the trainer admitted of his stable star on At The Races. "I would think it will be the Gold Cup, he was third in it last year and only lost second in the last 100 yards. It would appear to be the race to go for, but Michael asked me to put him in the Ryanair.
"With so many Gigginstown horses with chances in the Gold Cup, they have to keep all options open."
On his only start this term, Road To Riches ran out a smooth winner of the Clonmel Oil Chase in November. He has since missed a couple of engagements due to minor setbacks, but Meade has expressed himself satisfied with him ahead of the February 6 Grade One at Leopardstown.
Known as the Hennessy Gold Cup for 25 years, it will now simply be the Irish Gold Cup following a fruitless search for a successor to the distillery. Road To Riches is a 13/8 shot to secure what would be his third win at the highest level in the €150,000 three-miler, with Gigginstown's Don Poli (6/4) ahead of him in the betting, though Willie Mullins's charge has yet to be confirmed an intended runner.
Meade revealed that Road To Riches had a racecourse school at Fairyhouse in recent days. "It wasn't a serious piece of work, more a case of taking him away from home," he explained. "The ground was very tacky, he likes being in front and likes jumping so we let him go round on his own - he went about a mile-and-a-half. He worked on the grass on Tuesday at home, a mile-and-a-half again, and I'm delighted with him; he's in good shape."
The Co Meath handler's JP McManus-owned Waxies Dargle is among 14 Irish-trained horses left in Newbury's Betfair Hurdle on February 13. After the latest forfeit stage that saw 51 stand their ground, Mullins has nine to choose from, including the new top-weight Sempre Medici and Kalkir, which was second in a similar event at Leopardstown last week.
Gordon Elliott's Desoto County, third in the same race, is the lowest priced Irish contender at 12/1.
Further afield, Dermot Weld's Fascinating Rock is among the nominations for the €10m Dubai World Cup in March, while there are four raiders at Meydan tonight. David Marnane's Jamesie and Seanie tackle a six-furlong handicap, with Mick Halford represented by Eastern Rules and Wychwood Warrior.