Smooth return for Road To Riches at Clonmel
Road To Riches made all the running for a successful reappearance in the Clonmel Oil Chase at the County Tipperary track.
Third in both the Cheltenham and Punchestown Gold Cups in the spring, the Noel Meade-trained 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 shot 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.
Cooper was completing a quick double for Gigignstown having won the Clonmel Oil Service Station Handicap Hurdle on 4-1 joint-favourite Prince Of Scars for trainer Gordon Elliott.
Meade said of Road To Riches: "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."
Meade added: "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."