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Meade keen to keep his two big guns apart for now

Trainer Noel Meade is keen to avoid stable stars Road To Riches and Apache Stronghold crossing paths in the early part of the new campaign.

The County Meath maestro is reconsidering his options for Cheltenham Gold Cup third Road To Riches after owners Gigginstown House Stud decided against letting him defend his crown in Saturday's Champion Chase, instead choosing to field the impressive Don Cossack in the Down Royal feature.

The Clonmel Oil Chase on Thursday is a potential alternative, but that Grade Two event is also an option for Apache Stronghold, who has not been seen since finishing third at Punchestown in the spring.

The John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase in early December is also on the radar for both horses.

"Road To Riches in great form, but they (Gigginstown) decided to run Don Cossack and we had to take a back seat," said Meade.

"Bryan (Cooper) rode him in a bit of work at the Curragh the previous Saturday over a mile and a furlong and he worked really well. He was ready to run on Saturday.

"It looks like Don Cossack is going to go for the King George and we'll go for the Lexus. He'll also get an entry in the King George.

"We'll look at races like the Morris Oil at Clonmel and the Durkan.

"Ger Fox rides him out at home and thinks he's a stronger horse this year.

"He had a very hard race at Cheltenham. It was as tough a race as you could imagine.

"They were flat out from the top of the hill and I'm not surprised he disappointed after at Punchestown."

Apache Stronghold had been pencilled for Saturday's Powers Irish Whiskey Chase at Down Royal before suffering a setback.

Meade said: "He was due to run at Down Royal, but he gave himself a wrap and missed about a week.

"It's quite possible that he could look at the the Morris Oil or the Durkan, but ideally I don't want to run him and Road To Riches in the same race.

"I think he gets three miles and we'll probably run him in the Lexus and see how he gets on.

"Down the road the Ryanair Chase is an obvious target at Cheltenham, if he shows us he's not getting the three miles.

"Paul (Carberry) came back in after he finished second at Cheltenham last season and said he ran very well, but the other fellow (Vautour) is a machine."

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