Riches could take the road to Haydock to set up tilt at £1m Triple Crown bonus
Noel Meade has hinted that the destination of Road To Riches' comeback could switch from Clonmel to Haydock if it were to mean avoiding Willie Mullins's big guns.
Meade had to swerve last Saturday's JNwine.com Champion Chase with his Gold Cup third after Michael O'Leary and his Gigginstown Stud racing manager brother Eddie targeted Down Royal with Don Cossack.
He then indicated that the Clonmel Oil Chase this day week might be a suitable starting point, but yesterday he was at pains to stress that nothing is set in stone yet, with the absence of any Mullins entry in the Betfair Chase at Haydock potentially significant.
A total of 18 entries went forward for the November 21 Grade One, the first leg in a £1m Triple Crown bonus that has been put up for any horse that wins at Haydock before following up in the King George VI Chase and Gold Cup.
"The plan with Road To Riches was to go to Clonmel after he didn't go to Down Royal," Meade confirmed, "but, it could well be that the race at Haydock might be an easier option. I haven't seen the entries, but I have heard that Willie hasn't put anything in; if he were to produce Vautour or something like that for Clonmel, then Haydock might make more sense.
"Obviously, I don't know because when you are talking about the Gigginstown horses, everything has to be thrashed out around a table, so you don't really know until Michael and Eddie agree on what's going to happen. Every option is open for Road To Riches really, and the main thing is that the horse is well."
Given the wealth of talent at his disposal, Mullins's decision not to put anything in the Betfair Chase was unexpected. While Gigginstown's Gordon Elliott-trained multiple Grade One victor Don Cossack has been given the option, he is expected to wait for either the King George or Lexus Chase at Christmas, and the same firm's Clarcam and Wounded Warrior are the only other Irish contenders.
The Gold Cup hero Coneygree, two-time Betfair victor Silviniaco Conti and 2013 winner Cue Card are all engaged. Meade added that Wounded Warrior remains lame after picking up a knock, but he said Monksland will reappear in Sunday's Lismullen Hurdle at Navan, with Sean Flanagan due to stand in for the sidelined Paul Carberry.
"We're not short of jockeys and we will see how Paul is first," Meade said of whether Flanagan might be a long-term alternative to 41-year-old Carberry, his gifted long-serving stable jockey who is expected to be out until March with a broken leg.
"There is no need to rush into anything. I have been watching Sean for a while and he has been riding out for me a few days a week. I like the way he rides; he has a good pair of hands and is a nice lad. He is riding a lot of winners and is a confident rider."
Vautour is joined by stablemates Don Poli, Sir Des Champs, Djakadam and Valseur Lido among an initial 32-strong King George listing. All the big names are in the Kempton showpiece, with the notable and surprising exception of Coneygree, which is due to run at Sandown on Sunday ahead of a tilt at the Hennessy Gold Cup.
Meanwhile, Noel Fehily yesterday joined an elite category of jockeys to have ridden 1,000 winners over jumps when the Tom Lacey-trained Lamanver Alchemy caused a minor upset at 14/1 in the bumper at Warwick.
Fehily trails only runaway leader Richard Johnson and fellow west Cork native Aidan Coleman in the British jockeys' championship. Soon to turn 40 years of age, he has enjoyed a raft of major victories in recent times, including a 2012 Champion Hurdle success aboard Rock On Ruby and the past two King Georges on Silviniaco Conti.
Yesterday's low-key triumph catapults him into a select bunch, as he is now just the 19th jump jockey to hit four figures on either side of the Irish Sea. It is a list topped by the legendary AP McCoy on 4,348, with Davy Russell the latest entrant prior to Fehily two years ago.
"It's a great milestone and I'm delighted to get there. I thought I had two left until we did a recount after my treble at Wetherby on Saturday, and it turns out I was just one short," Fehily said of the feat, before quipping: "Onwards and upwards now for the next 1,000 - McCoy's record is in sight!"
Tiger gives Cooper first win for Weld
Grecian Tiger (4/1) led all the way to win the INH Stallion Owners European Breeders Fund Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse, providing jockey Bryan Cooper with his first winner for training legend Dermot Weld.
Grecian Tiger hasn't really fired in his last two outings but was not to be denied here, taking up the running from the outset and galloping his way to a four-and-a-quarter-length success as part of a double for the Kerry jockey who also scored in the opener aboard Wrath Of Titans (4/9) for trainer Sandra Hughes.
Solatentif looked to have Grecian Tiger in trouble when cruising up to his quarters in the home straight but he was soon seen off and a similar fate became of Akito when he challenged approaching the last.
At Kempton, meanwhile, Richard Hughes was thrilled to saddle his first winner as a trainer as Duchess Of Marmite claimed victory. The three-time champion Flat jockey retired from the saddle at the end of Glorious Goodwood this year after a distinguished career to take the plunge as a trainer.
Duchess Of Marmite was the 9/4 favourite for the 32Red On The App Store Handicap, turning out just a week after finishing third at the track, and Shane Kelly coaxed her to a neck success over Flighty Filia.