Meade confident Road To Riches on route to recovery
Road To Riches is firmly on course for Saturday's Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown after delighting trainer Noel Meade in a racecourse gallop at Punchestown on Sunday.
Last season's Cheltenham Gold Cup third has not been seen in competitive action since landing November's Clonmel Oil Chase, having missed an intended run in the Lexus over the festive period due to a minor setback.
Meade reports his Michael O'Leary-owned stable star to be firing on all cylinders again and he was thrilled with how he worked over the weekend alongside fellow Irish Gold Cup contender Wounded Warrior.
"We were thrilled with him. We couldn't have asked for him to go better," said Meade.
"Usually when you come to the track you're worried something goes wrong and you'll make a stupid mistake, but he didn't. He jumped brilliant and quickened up well. He was absolutely bombing and came back in with a big smile on his face and his ears pricked, so I'm delighted. The little blip at Christmas was just a cold."
Paddy Power make Road To Riches the 10/11 favourite for the Leopardstown showpiece.
Meanwhile, Colm Murphy is targeting the spring festivals with another O'Leary-owned chaser, Empire Of Dirt, following his big-race triumph at Leopardstown last month.
A faller in last season's Irish Grand National, the nine-year-old was a good winner of the valuable Leopardstown Handicap Chase on his latest outing and could be part of what is likely to be a formidable Gigginstown team bound for Cheltenham in March.
"He's in very good form and came out of Leopardstown bouncing," said the Wexford handler. "I'm not 100pc certain where we'll go with him at this stage. He'll get a few entries in Cheltenham -that and Aintree would look the obvious targets."I'd say it's very unlikely he'll run before then (Cheltenham), with the way the ground is."
Across the water, More Of That is one of the star names among 14 entries for Saturday's Scilly Isles Novices' Chase at Sandown. Jonjo O'Neill's 2014 World Hurdle hero has returned from a lengthy injury lay-off seemingly as good as ever this winter, winning each of his two starts over fences at Cheltenham in impressive fashion.
The eight-year-old is set to step up to Grade One level this weekend ahead of a return to Prestbury Park in March for the RSA Chase, with connections having resisted the temptation to give him a Gold Cup entry.
The biggest threat to More Of That may come from these shores, with Willie Mullins responsible for five possible runners: Black Hercules, Pont Alexandre, Outlander, Mckinley and Pleasant Company. Mullins won the prize 12 months ago with one of his relatively lesser lights in Gitane Du Berlais.
Other contenders include the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Bristol De Mai, Nick Williams' Feltham Novices' Chase winner Tea For Two and Harry Fry's mare Bitofapuzzle.