Bryan Cooper completes Leopardstown treble as Road To Riches takes Lexus Chase
Jockey also secured Christmas Hurdle on Lieutenant Colonel
Gigginstown House owner Michael O’Leary celebrates with jockey Bryan Cooper after he brought home Road to Riches to win the Lexus Steeplechase at Leopardstown. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Road To Riches emerged as a serious contender for the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup when pouncing late to claim the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown.
Connections of Noel Meade’s charge had expressed concerns about the heavy ground, but the Gigginstown House Stud-owned gelding allayed those fears with a gutsy display.
Prominent in the early stages, Bryan Cooper was hard at work to keep Road To Riches involved as the race hotted up but he was still in with a shout at the last where On His Own and Sam Winner were battling it out.
Road To Riches (4-1) proved game for the task as he got up on the run to the line to supplement his JNWine.com Champion Chase triumph by a length and a half from the pace-setting On His Own with Sam Winner third.
“I’m thrilled. Things didn’t go quite to plan as we thought we’d be able to make it. He was getting hassled up front early on, but it worked out well in the end,” said Meade.
“We knew he was in great shape and he’s been improving all the time since Punchestown.
“The way he came home, I’d imagine it’s all systems go for Cheltenham. You’d say he’d get the trip. He really stuck on well there.
“Bryan said they went very quick and if he had been up there he would have been going too quick. He stayed on really well and I’d say going further wouldn’t bother him.
“I’ll have to talk to Michael and Eddie (O’Leary). I don’t know if he’ll run again, but obviously we’re hoping to go to Cheltenham.
“We did the same with him that we did after Punchestown and left him off. It was never the plan to run at Gowran (in October) and he was a bit of work short (when beaten by Sizing Europe). We learned a lesson there.
“Bryan rode him work in Navan last week and was delighted with him.
“I thought that was a good race today and thought it was every bit as good as the King George.”
Cooper said: “He showed today that he doesn’t have to be ridden from the front and he showed he stays. He answered all the questions today.
“I knew I had plenty of horse left but he doesn’t like to be crowded. I didn’t want to get into a battle with Sam Winner from the second last as he’s an out-and-out stayer.
“Our lad has a touch of class and showed that today.”
Road To Riches was trimmed to 14-1 from 20-1 for the Cheltenham Gold Cup with Paddy Power.
On His Own’s rider Paul Townend was banned for four days for using his whip with excessive frequency.
Cooper and Gigginstown also lifted the other Grade One race on the card, the Squared Financial Christmas Hurdle with the Sandra Hughes-trained Lieutenant Colonel (4-1).
The winner had beaten Jetson by four lengths in the Hatton’s Grace at Fairyhouse four weeks earlier but the margin was down to only three-quarters of a length this time after a pulsating duel.
“He was very good. We thought that he stayed and I’m delighted. He was brilliant,” said Hughes, who took over the licence after the death of her father Dessie last month.
“He’s very economical in his jumping. He stays well and has a bit of class, that’s what you need in the three-mile Grade One.
“We’ll take him home now and have a look. I’ll talk to Michael and Eddie. The World Hurdle at Cheltenham is his main aim this season.”
Paddy Power cut Lieutenant Colonel to 14-1 from 25s for the Ladbrokes World Hurdle at Cheltenham while BetVictor offer 10s from 16-1.
It was a treble for Cooper and Gigginstown as Identity Thief (7-4), trained by Henry de Bromhead, created a good impression when making a winning debut over jumps in the At The Races Maiden Hurdle.
“Bryan thought maybe a faster pace would suit him and we might drop him back and try the Deloitte here in February. We’ll see how he goes after that,” said de Bromhead.
Identity Thief was quoted at by BetVictor at 25-1 first show for both the Neptune and Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham.
Usuel Smurfer (20-1) gamely fought off Off The Charts in the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle (Qualifier) to possibly book himself a place in the final at Cheltenham.
“He could go for the Pertemps at Cheltenham, we’ll see what weight he gets. He might have to go for another one,” said winning trainer John Hanlon.
Liz Doyle’s Le Vent D’Antan (7-4 favourite) went one better than on his fencing debut when taking the Ballymaloe Original Country Relish Beginners Chase under Davy Russell.
Le Vent D’Antan was introduced at 16-1 for the JLT Novices’ Chase and the RSA Chase by RaceBets.
Ruby Walsh struck on Shemshal (4-1 favourite) for trainer Tony Martin in the Irish Daily Star Christmas Novice Handicap Hurdle while Willie Mullins was on target in the Thornton’s Recycyling INH Flat Race with Up For Review (9-10 favourite) in the hands of his son, Patrick.
Monday’s meeting will have to pass a precautionary inspection at 8.0am if it is to go ahead.
The fixture, which is due to feature the latest clash between Hurricane Fly and Jezki in the Ryanair Hurdle, is the climax of the track’s four-day Christmas meeting.
However, the threat of overnight frost means officials will have to check conditions in the morning.
The track tweeted: “Due to the forecast of frost overnight, there will be an 8am precautionary inspection. We are very optimistic that racing will go ahead.”