Noel Meade has confirmed the JLT Novices' Chase as the intended Cheltenham Festival target for Apache Stronghold (pictured) 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 last weekend.
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, who has not been seen since winning the Lexus chase at Christmas, spearheading the squad.