Noel Meade thrilled as Road to Riches strikes on Clonmel return
Gigginstown eight-year-old wins Clonmel Oil Chase under Bryan Cooper
Road To Riches with Bryan Cooper and the winning connections after winning the Clonmel Oil Steeplechase. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Cheltenham Gold Cup third Road To Riches thrilled trainer Noel Meade with a perfect reappearance in the Clonmel Oil Chase.
Also third in the Punchestown Gold Cup in the spring, the eight-year-old duly landed the odds as he led home a one-two for owners Gigginstown House Stud from Bright New Dawn.
Jockey Bryan Cooper always looked in control on the 8-13 favourite and pulled clear of the runner-up after jumping the final fence, scoring by six lengths.
Bright New Dawn held off Felix Yonger, with Gigginstown’s other representative, First Lieutenant, fourth of the five.
The sponsors make Road To Riches 12-1 (from 16-1) for the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup and kept him unchanged at 8-1 for the Betfair Chase and 12-1 for the William Hill King George VI Chase.
Meade said: “I’m so relieved and I’m thrilled with him. I thought I would be because the two bits of work he did were really good.
“He was ready to go today. Maybe the track, the trip and the ground weren’t right for him.
“He jumped well, idled in front and did everything you’d want him to do.
“With all the Gigginstown horses there’s a meeting and we’ll all have our say on where we want to go and then the decision is made.
“I’d say the Durkan is a possibility, but whether he’d go there, I don’t know. I would say the Lexus. It does look like the other horse (the Gordon Elliott-trained Don Cossack) will go for the King George.
“If they decided they wanted to run him in the Lexus, I wouldn’t mind going to Kempton.
“I don’t usually sweat about runners, but I couldn’t sleep last night. I was thinking ‘would he fancy the track or the ground and going two and a half miles around here’. You’d have to be happy, though, and he jumped great.
“Bryan said he was full of running going down to the last and there is no question that he stays three miles.
“Everything in the outfit (Gigginstown) is done on a discussion basis, but the chairman (Michael O’Leary) usually rules anyway!”
Cooper said: “He did it well but conditions were hard and there was a strong headwind. Making the running on his first run back wasn’t ideal and a lot went against him – the track, ground and trip.
“We had to come here and he did it well and the extra week instead of running in Down Royal left him more right for today.
“Hopefully there’s more improvement to come and he’s one to look forward to.
“He can now go over two and a half (miles), but is ideally suited to three miles. We have plenty in that division so we’ll have to go home and draw a map for them.”
Cooper was completing a quick double for Gigginstown having won the Clonmel Oil Service Station Handicap Hurdle on 4-1 joint-favourite Prince Of Scars for Elliott.
Elliott said: “He’s a big, honest, galloping horse, but is still a big baby.
“We’ll look for a three-mile handicap hurdle for him at Leopardstown over Christmas next.”
Vroum Vroum Mag extended her unbeaten record over fences to six with a comfortable victory in the European Breeders Fund T.A. Morris Memorial Mares Chase.
Ruby Walsh was content to hold the Rich Ricci-owned 1-4 favourite off the pace set by Miss Dinamic before leading at the second last.
Though she did not jump that obstacle particularly well, she was more fluent at the final fence and won as she liked by seven and a half lengths.
Walsh said: “She got a bit high behind (at the second-last) and will improve a fair bit for the run. She did what she had to and might now have to step up and race against the geldings.
“She is so laid-back that she never catches your eye at home. She isn’t flash and keeps her best for the track.
“There aren’t a whole pile of mares’ races for her and she’ll have to improve. It’s all potential with her at the moment so some day we’ll probably be disappointed!”
It was a second win on the card for Walsh as he took the opening INH Stallion Owners EBF Maiden Hurdle on Jetstream Jack for the Elliott team.
Walsh was a late replacement for Davy Russell, who was unable to make his return from injury due to a paperwork problem.