Meade has weighty 'Road' dilemma
Noel Meade isn't sure how to assess Road To Respect's victory in last week's JNwine.com Champion Chase and insists he is still in the dark about just how much the seven-year-old has improved.
Winner of last year's Leopardstown Christmas Chase, Road To Respect romped to victory in the Down Royal Grade One with big names like Outlander and Balko Des Flos in arrears.
After finishing fourth in the Cheltenham Gold Cup this year, Meade will campaign him for the blue riband once again and there could be scope for better after he filled out his frame significantly during the summer.
"It's hard to know whether he has improved or not because it's hard to know whether the others ran up to par. Sean and my second in command Damien McKillop were adamant that he was in fantastic form," the Meath trainer said.
"He was weighing 22 kilos heavier than at any stage in his life before, he weighed at 562 kilos going up to the north. When he won his beginners chase he was 540 and that was the heaviest he had been at any stage.
"I was actually worried but the two boys kept saying, 'no, no, he's right' and they were right. I was tempted to give him another piece of work but they said he was fit as a fiddle. He has improved but who knows how much."
Meanwhile, Amy Murphy's stable star Kalashnikov will make his anticipated chasing debut at Warwick today. One of last season's classiest novice hurdlers, winning the Betfair Hurdle, before a brilliant second to Summerville Boy in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, the five-year-old tackles the novice chase (2.0).
Already best-priced 7/1 favourite for next year's Arkle Chase, Kalashnikov will likely account for his three rivals with Murphy expecting significant improvement from the run.
"It's exciting for the team to get him started. Whatever he does he will come on for it as we've not been able to get the horses on the grass yet because the weather has been so dry.
"It's no easy task for him, but as long as he has a clean round and learns a lot we'll be happy. It will be great to get his season under way."
Elsewhere, Jamie Spencer received a 21-day suspension under the totting-up procedure for misuse of the whip with his latest indiscretion aboard Aidan O'Brien's Phoenix Of Spain when second in last month's Futurity Trophy at Doncaster.
One rider in flying form, however, is Paul Townend after he moved five clear of Rachael Blackmore at the head of the jump jockeys' title race when steering Charles O'Brien's Rain In Spain (6/1 co-favourite) to handicap hurdle victory at Thurles yesterday.