Road to Respect takes top honours at Leopardstown
Apple’s Jade finds more to pip Supasundae, as Nichols Canyon has to be put down
Sean Flanagan onboard Road To Respect celebrates winning The Leopardstown Christmas Steeplechase. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Road To Respect led home a one-two-three for Gigginstown House Stud with Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Sizing John well beaten in the Leopardstown Christmas Chase at the Dublin track.
The winner, ridden by Sean Flanagan and trained by Noel Meade, powered to victory on the run-in to back up his other Grade One success in the Ryanair Gold Cup Novice Chase at Fairyhouse in April.
The 16-1 shot was chased home by Henry de Bromhead’s Balko Des Flos (66-1) and the Gordon Elliott-trained Outlander (8-1).
Gigginstown were also responsible for the fifth and sixth, in Alpha Des Obeaux and Valseur Lido.
Flanagan said: “He’s been a very good horse to me in general and did everything perfectly today, I’m delighted.
“I thought halfway down the back I was too far back and was flat out and couldn’t be much closer. There was no hiding place and it was a true-run race.
“To be fair when I got a bit of room he came alive. He’s got loads of speed. He’s a very good horse.”
He added: “I wouldn’t be worried about the (Cheltenham) Gold Cup distance as he settled well there and he has won at the track before.”
Paddy Power slashed Road To Respect to 8-1 from 20-1 for the Gold Cup, with King George winner Might Bite the 4-1 favourite from 11-2 and Sizing John out to 8-1 from 4-1. Meade said: “Everything went according to plan. The hood obviously worked well. Sean rode him the other day and he said maybe a hood might help him to settle early on. He settled great and he gave him a most beautiful ride. He’s a Gold Cup contender now, so he’ll go for the Gold Cup. Whether he runs in between or not, I don’t know.”
Earlier Apple’s Jade had to dig deep to collar Supasundae close home and land the Squared Financial Christmas Hurdle.
But the Grade One race was marred by the fall of Stayers’ Hurdle hero Nichols Canyon, who came down at the fifth flight in front of the stands and was attended to as the obstacle was omitted on the final circuit. He sadly had to be put down.
The two principals cut out the running between them over the three miles and it looked for a long way as though Supasundae would come out on top, until Apple’s Jade (4-6 favourite) — who was trying the trip for the first time — pulled out more on the long run to the line.
Russell said: “She’s something else. I’ve only ridden her at home and it’s a pleasure to ride her, even at home. Lisa O’Neill does all the work on her, but really Jack (Kennedy) is the man that has probably made her and unfortunately he got a couple of horrid falls during the week.
“All credit has to go to Jack, Lisa and the team at home, really. I knew when I got stuck into her she’d find loads — Supasundae ran well in Fairyhouse and I knew he’d stay, but to be fair, Apple’s Jade is all heart.
“It’s amazing what a good filly can do.”