JLT target for Apache
Noel Meade has confirmed the JLT Novices' Chase as the intended Cheltenham Festival target for Apache Stronghold following his thrilling triumph at Leopardstown on Sunday.
The seven-year-old was no match for the Willie Mullins-trained Valseur Lido in the Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse earlier in the campaign, but turned that form on its head under a beautifully judged ride from Paul Carberry in the Floglas Novice Chase.
Meade feels that victory proved two and a half miles is his best trip at this stage and he will encounter that distance again at Prestbury Park, instead of stepping down or up in trip for either the Arkle or the RSA.
"He's come out of the race in good form. We're very happy with him and he seems really well," said the trainer.
"All going well he'll go straight for the JLT now. I think two and a half (miles) looks about right for now."
The Tu Va handler is assembling a strong team for this year's Festival, with leading Cheltenham Gold Cup hope Road To Riches spearheading the squad.
Not seen since winning the Lexus Chase over Christmas, the eight-year-old has been in his box while the recent trials at Cheltenham, Newbury and Leopardstown have been taking place and Meade is delighted with his gelding's condition ahead of the blue riband in just over four weeks.
He said: " He seems in good form and we're where we want to be at this stage. I don't think anything has happened (in the trials) that is going to make any change to us. We're happy with how things are going, so hopefully it continues that way."
Another Meade inmate bound for Prestbury Park is Monksland, narrowly beaten by Dedigout in the Galmoy Hurdle at Gowran Park last month.
"He just got beat the last day and I'd have preferred it if he'd won, obviously, but he seems well and all going well he'll go straight to the World Hurdle," said Meade.