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Riches is very aptly named

When Road To Riches won this summers Galway Plate in an extremely impressive manner you wondered what heights he could reach when stepped into a higher grade and with two Grade One victories since then it looks pretty obvious that he's only a rung or two off the top of the ladder.

Silviniaco Conti laid down his marker for the Cheltenham Gold Cup with a bold front running performance in the King George on Friday and yesterdays Lexus Chase was to serve as another major trial for the blue riband event of staying chasing and winning trainer Noel Meade suggested afterwards that the Lexus was "a very good race" and "every bit as good as the King George" after he won it for the third time.

Like Silvinaco Conti, the plan was to make all the running, but with Paul Townend aboard On His Own wanting to do the same, Bryan Cooper sat back and tracked the Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up in tactics that ended up paying off.

"It didn't quite go according to plan," Meade revealed, "as we thought he'd be able to make it, but he was getting a bit of hassle up front and Bryan said they were going very quick and it all worked out well in the end.

"Even when he dropped back a bit turning into the straight I still thought he was going well enough and the further he went didn't seem to bother him so it's all systems go for the Cheltenham Gold Cup and an extra two-furlongs."

This years renewal of the Lexus was a fair one as it featured the Cheltenham Gold Cup first and second in Lord Windermere and On His Own and last years Gold Cup winner Boston Bob and while On His Own pleased his trainer Willie Mullins by finishing second, Lord Windermere could never really pick up enough from the back of the field to challenge and finished just in front of Bobs Worth in second last and last respectively.

Road To Riches was pulled up on the opening day of this meeting 12-months ago in the Racing Post Novice Chase won by Defy Logic but since winning a novice chase at the Fairyhouse Easter meeting off a mark of 145, the seven-year-old has continued to go from strength to strength, winning the Galway Plate in July, followed by the JNWine.com Champion Chase at Down Royal with a somewhat surprising defeat at the hands of Sizing Europe in between but Meade described that race as an afterthought.

"Gowran Park wasn't the plan and I think I left him undercooked going there - I'd say he was a bit of work short but we probably learned a lesson."

Meade is now relishing the prospect of a tilt at the Cheltenham Gold Cup and added; "A lot of water has to go under the bridge before then. I don't know if he'll run again but the Hennessy would be the obvious race if he does.

Ever since we got his diet right at Punchestown he hasn't stopped improving and if we get him to the Gold Cup he is a contender anyway and it's all systems go."

After winning the bumper with the very eye-catching Cheltenham bound Up For Review, Willie Mullins reflected on his two Lexus Chase runners and admitted he was pleased with both.

"I was delighted with the two of them," claimed the champion trainer.

"On His Own ran a cracker in the cheek-pieces but I'm not sure he needs them. He jumped right throughout but that is just something we are going to have to deal with and I think the run was good enough to go back for another crack at the Gold Cup.

"Boston Bob, I think needed it still. I think he will improve more for that run again and he is Gold Cup bound. I'm not sure if I'll run them again or not but we'll look at the Hennessy back here I suppose."

Mullins all but ruled out the Cheltenham Gold Cup for Champagne Fever who finished fourth in the King George.

"He'll probably get an entry for the Gold Cup but my first thought was to look at the Ryanair Chase for him. In saying that, he has won twice and got beaten a shorthead around Cheltenham and clearly enjoys the place and maybe he will drop right back to run in the Champion Chase."

For the Lexus winning jockey Bryan Cooper and owners Gigginstown House Stud it was a day to remember with a treble on the card including the first of the two Grade One's with Lieutenant Colonel.

It has certainly been a turbulent year for 22-year-old Cooper who was named as Michael O'Leary and Gigginstown's number one rider in January before breaking his leg in an horrific fall off Clarcam at the Cheltenham Festival where he missed two Grade One winners on the final day.

It was a fall that at a brief stage looked a possible career ender and the injuries were described as similar to that of a high-speed motorcycle accident.

He didn't return until October when he opted to get off Clarcam in a hurdle at Limerick to ride Guitar Pete, in a race that Clarcam won and then missed the Grade One John Durkan success of Don Cossack and Grade Two victory of No More Heroes due to an 'improper riding' suspension but now the Kerry native doesn't want the year to end after winning a Grade One on Clarcam on Friday and then the two top level races yesterday.

"It's a great job with a great bunch of horses and I couldn't ask for any better," Cooper said.


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