Sunday 25 February 2018

Cheekpieces may drive 'Road' to Gold Cup riches

Seán Flanagan bidding for his first Group One winner. Photo: Sportsfile
Seán Flanagan bidding for his first Group One winner. Photo: Sportsfile

Johnny Ward

Road To Riches is to wear cheekpieces on Sunday as he bids to provide Sean Flanagan with a first Grade One winner in the Stan James Gold Cup.

Gigginstown's hardy sort, which frequently came up short at the top level while running big races in the past two years, was operated on for kissing spines between his Gowran reappearance and a laboured run in the Lexus in late December.

The 2014 Lexus winner is reported to be in fine shape as he bids to provide Michael O'Leary - who will also run ante-post favourite Don Poli and Empire Of Dirt - with another Grade One triumph in a fantastic season.

Flanagan said: "He was in great form coming out of the Lexus. We are trying cheekpieces to sharpen him up - he was just a little bit in snatches in the Lexus, on and off the bridle.

"I would be riding him more positively and pop into wherever we are comfortable. He will be a lot sharper I feel now. He seems to be in the form he was in going into the Lexus when he was favourite last season.

"He is a Grade One winner. He has had a hit-and-miss season but it's the first time going into a race that he is well in himself. He seems in great order and so is the yard."

Robbie Power rode Sizing John in exercise yesterday morning and is expected to ride. Frank Berry, racing manager to JP McManus, said that it had yet to be decided whether Barry Geraghty would steer Minella Rocco or Carlingford Lough, though he said that he expected the last-named "to run another blinder at the age of 11".

Nicky Henderson's Consul De Thaix may miss Saturday's Betfair Hurdle and Geraghty is to ride Movewiththetimes. Both were near the top of the Newbury betting and Geraghty had said he was struggling to split them, though Paul Nicholls admitted that he expected he would ride the horse he trains, the novice Movewiththetimes. Berry said: "Barry will ride Movewiththetimes. At the moment we have four runners but Consul De Thaix is not a certain runner."

The sponsor makes Movewiththetimes 6/1 for the race, for which 20 remain, including McManus' De Name Escapes Me.

The Noel Meade-trained runner may have the assistance of Aidan Coleman, though Flanagan says he is in fine shape and he would be happy to ride too.

And the Cheltenham target of 2014 Champion Hurdle winner Jezki will hinge on his run in the Red Mills Trial Hurdle at Gowran on February 18, according to his trainer Jessica Harrington.

Irish Independent

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