Noel Meade hopeful Road To Riches can repeat Galway Plate success

Meath trainer believes top chaser has fully recovered form “horrendous” fall in April’s Punchestown Gold Cup

Noel Meade: says Road To Riches has given no indication he carries any mental scars from  Punchestown fall. Photograph: Inpho

Noel Meade: says Road To Riches has given no indication he carries any mental scars from Punchestown fall. Photograph: Inpho

 

It is almost half a century since a horse has regained the Tote Galway Plate crown but Noel Meade is hopeful his star chaser Road To Riches can bridge that gap to complete a perfect recovery from what briefly looked like disaster.

Road To Riches built on his 2014 Plate victory to become one of the top chasers in training with a subsequent pair of Grade One victories under his belt and a fine third in the 2015 Cheltenham Gold Cup.

However building even further on that glittering CV momentarily looked unlikely after Road To Riches took a “horrendous” fall in April’s Punchestown Gold Cup, a spill which initially left Meade fearing the worst. “It was most uncharacteristic of him to do what he did, missing out the second last altogether. Davy Russell was riding him and he said he’d jumped superbly up to then, full of horse, he wasn’t tired, and he quickened into the fence. He didn’t know why he did it.

“But he blitzed it, a horrendous fall. Obviously when I was looking down and he was spread-eagled I feared the worst. He shook the stands, never mind every bone in his body,” the Co Meath trainer said.

Any initial soreness soon cleared up and after a six-week break the thoughts of his owners, Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown Stud, turned again to a possible Plate repeat at next week’s Galway festival. Road To Riches is an automatic topweight and is the highest rated horse to run in the day three festival feature since modern classifications have been introduced. However it is not unknown for double-seeking topweights to succeed. Ansar completed back-to-back victories under 11.11 in 2005. Life Of Lord did the same under 12st in 1996. General Idea carried to 12st to success in 1993.

Precedent

Royal Day

The overall quality of Galway’s major prizes has increased greatly in modern times however and Road To Riches, who will have to carry 11.10, being targeted at the Plate again is a reflection of that. Encouragingly he has also given no indication he carries any mental scars from that Punchestown fall. “He’s in a good place. I was worried he might back off and remember it when we schooled him. But he’s been brilliant here and we took him to Tipperary on Sunday where he jumped two and was very good,” Meade said.

“I think he has a good chance on good ground. From early on Michael and Eddie (O’Leary) were looking at the Plate because they’ve always felt he is much better on better ground.

“When he won before it was off a light weight. He’s gone right up since and will have to give weight away to everything. But touch-wood, everything’s gone very well so far.”

Road To Riches was initially installed a 6-1 favourite for next week’s €220,000 race by some bookmakers with another previous winner, the 2015 hero, Shanahan’s Turn, a 16-1 shot to repeat. The JP McManus owned Shanpallas is also prominent in most ante-post lists.

The Dan Skelton-trained Cheltenham winner, Superb Story, tops the betting for Thursday week’s Guinness Galway Hurdle. The County Hurdle hero is set to carry 11.7 in the €300,000 Ladies Day highlight. Another potential cross-channel based starter is the Paul Nicholls trained Moabit who has been given 10.3.

Willie Mullins has five hopefuls left in the race, including last year’s Melbourne Cup runner-up Max Dynamite. The latter finished runner-up to Quick Jack a year ago but progressed rapidly on the flat subsequently, including when winning the Group Two Lonsdale Cup.

Max Dynamite has been given 11.3, 2lbs less than his Royal Ascot winning stable companion Clondaw Warrior. Quick Jack’s trainer Tony Martin also won in 214 with Thomas Edison. His other potential starters are Ted Veale (11.7) and Pyromaniac (10.13.) However, Pyromanaic’s participation depends on having a 40-day ban imposed on him under “non-trier” rules at Killarney last week lifted at a Referrals Committee hearing at Leopardstown on Thursday.

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