Gold Cup candidate Road To Respect returns at Punchestown
Ronnie Wood-owned Sandymount Duke could make his fitness count in day’s feature
Road to Respect: was fourth in steeplechasing’s ‘Blue Riband’ last season and sets out on a new campaign in the Irish Daily Star Chase. Photograph: Dan Sheridan
The sight of Cheltenham Gold Cup contenders returning to action is a sure sign of approaching winter and Road To Respect provides such a signal at Punchestown on Wednesday.
At 25-1, bookmakers currently reckon Road To Respect is Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary’s best chance, from among his huge National Hunt string, of a third Gold Cup success next March.
Road To Respect was fourth in steeplechasing’s ‘Blue Riband’ last season and sets out on a new campaign in the Irish Daily Star Chase.
Both of O’Leary’s two previous Gold Cup heroes, War Of Attrition and Don Cossack, used this Grade Three prize as a springboard to ultimate Cheltenham glory.
Road To Respect won it himself a year ago, one of nine victories overall for O’Leary in the race’s 13-year history.
With ‘good to firm in places’ appearing in the Punchestown ground description, it might seem winter is still some way off.
But this race has a proven Gold Cup pedigree with one winner, War Of Attrition, beating another, Kicking King, in 2005. Then Don Cossack scored for a second time in 2015 ahead of his ultimate success later that season.
O’Leary’s Gigginstown Stud colours will be carried by half the six-strong field with multiple top-flight scorer Outlander also lining up alongside Sub Lieutenant.
The latter comes out ahead of Road To Respect on strict handicap figures but the three mile-plus trip is a concern for him.
Road To Respect’s stable companion Snow Falcon is match-fit after winning last month’s Kerry National.
But no horse has run more recently than Sandymount Duke and on quick going this course winner could make his race fitness count most.
Owned by famous Rolling Stones guitarist, Ronnie Wood, Sandymount Duke ran only on Sunday when ninth to Brazos in the Irish Cesarewitch at Navan.
His pace-forcing way of racing on quick ground will test the early season fitness of the likes of Road To Respect and may prove too much of a test at this stage of the campaign.
Wednesday’s other Grade Three, the Buck House Novice Chase, was won a year ago by Death Duty although the ground looks to make it a different proposition this time.
Ornua and Cadmium have been busy during the summer and, even with topweight, Ornua would boast convincing credentials if the race was at two miles.
Conceding almost a stone to the four year old Mitchouka at the longer trip though could prove a tough proposition.