Noel Meade: Gold Cup contender Road to Respect is ‘100%’
Former champion trainer enjoys perfect weekend with all four runners winning
Sean Flanagan on the Red Menace in the National Hunt Finale at Leopardstown. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho
Noel Meade reports his Gold Cup contender Road to Respect to be “100 per cent” ahead of next week’s Cheltenham festival.
And a hat-trick for the eight-time champion trainer at a weather-battered Leopardstown on Sunday indicated that last year’s Gold Cup fourth isn’t the only one of Meade’s string in good shape.
The Red Menace landed odds on with a narrow success in a maiden hurdle and Aint Dunne Yet scored at 6-5 in a Beginners’ Chase.
By the time newcomer Sixshooter completed the three-timer as an 11-8 favourite for the bumper, snowy conditions had left the track covered.
“He’d never seen grass before – and he still hasn’t!” joked Meade, who enjoyed a 100 per cent weekend. His sole runner on Saturday, Battle of Midway, scored at Navan.
With all eyes peeled for Cheltenham clues, it was a reassuring haul for Meade, who went 22 years before finally landing a first festival success courtesy of Sausalito Bay in 2000.
Four more wins at the most important meeting of the year followed, including Road to Respect’s handicap victory there in 2016.
Last year the Gigginstown Stud-owned gelding ran an admirable fourth to Native River in the Gold Cup and he is a general 20-1 shot for Friday week’s Blue Riband.
“Everything’s great with him. He’s 100 per cent. He will be entered for the Ryanair as well. That option will be left open as well. He’s very good and will do a bit of work on Tuesday,” Meade said.
Tout Est Permis
Another Gigginstown runner, Tout Est Permis, is on course for the Ryanair while Meade’s festival team is also set to include First Approach (Albert Bartlett Hurdle), Future Proof (Fred Winter) and Cap York, who has both the Pertemps and the Albert Bartlett as options.
One Meade horse that won’t travel is the JP McManus-owned De Name Escapes Me, who had been targeted at the Coral Cup.
The release of the English handicappers’ ratings of Irish runners ahead of the festival usually provokes some disgruntlement among connections here, and this year appears no exception.
“De Names Escapes Me won’t go because of the way he is handicapped against the Irish horses in the Coral Cup,” Meade revealed on Sunday.
“I was amazed when they said the Irish handicapper doesn’t take into account their hurdle form when handicapping over fences, and he was rated much lower over fences.
“So they put him up 7lb over fences and then they put him up 7lb over hurdles – I just don’t get that one,” he added.
Biggest Irish team
Gordon Elliott’s legion of followers were also reassured that all appears well at the stable, which will send the biggest Irish team to next week’s action.
Jack Kennedy eased the odds-on Tombstone home in the opening hurdle, and an Elliott double was completed with Mark Enright’s fine effort on the 14-1 shot Woods Well in the featured €50,000 TRI Handicap Chase.
Enright lost his irons when Woods Well made a mistake at the last but, undaunted, he drove next week’s Kim Muir entry to a narrow defeat of Ask Nile.
“He seemed to enjoy the bit of easier ground, jumped a lot better. I’ll speak to Eddie and Michael [O’Leary] but I’d say there’s a good chance he’ll go for the Kim Muir,” Elliott said, before outlining how Tuesday will decide much in terms of his near-60-strong festival line-up.
“All of our Cheltenham horses will gallop on Tuesday,” he said. They will include Samcro, who is still in the reckoning for the Stayers’ Hurdle.