Road finds path to Riches
Road To Riches put up a most impressive front-running performance to take the JNwine.com Champion Chase at Down Royal.
Winner of the Galway Plate in the summer, the Noel Meade-trained seven-year-old was race-fit having been beaten a head by Sizing Europe over two and a half miles at the start of last month, and Paul Carberry was positive from the off.
The 9-2 chance jumped to his left on occasion but was always seemingly travelling within himself and had everything on the stretch going to two out, before safely negotiating the final couple of fences and running on strongly to see off Rocky Creek, with favourite Boston Bob third.
Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up On His Own was the first of the principals to be beaten.
Carberry said: "He got his own way today, which was a big help - I was able to get a couple of breathers into him. His jumping definitely made a difference. He did (go left) a small bit, but when he jumped the good ones he was making lengths.
"I saw the boys after the fourth-last niggling away, so I was happy enough to get another breather into him. He's very game and kept galloping all the way to the line. He's a very exciting prospect."
Eddie O'Leary, racing manger for owners Gigginstown House Stud, added: "His jumping is getting there and three miles is not a problem. I think we'll keep him fresh, not go to the well too often, and the Lexus hopefully is the plan now."
Meade said: "That was terrific, everything went a dream. They left him alone and a couple of great jumps up the back stretched them.
"T his was always the plan. He was a bit undercooked going to Gowran. He's still slightly heavy today - five or six kilos over from Galway. I could see him getting tired in Gowran.
"He's a good horse. I'll probably leave him now until Christmas and we'll go to the Lexus if it's not too heavy. I'd love to go to the Gold Cup, but there's more things to be done - he's not going to have his next run in the Gold Cup.
"We changed his training regime and diet completely from Punchestown on and it has made a big difference. He has changed."
Boylesports gave Road To Riches an introductory quote of 25-1 for the Gold Cup.
Don Cossack gave further notice he could be a real force this year with an all-the-way success in the Powers Irish Whiskey Chase.
The Gordon Elliott-trained gelding has long had a huge reputation, but has not always found things going his way. However, he returned to action this season with victory in a Grade Three at Punchestown and built on that in the hands of Bryan Cooper.
Wonderful Charm did his best to give the winner a race in a bid to give Paul Nicholls a seventh straight win in the two-and-a-half-mile contest, but was never able to really threaten as Don Cossack (6-4) powered clear to the last, staying on very strongly from there.
Elliott said: "He beat Road To Riches last year, so he wouldn't have been out of place in the Grade One (JNWine.com Champion Chase). To be fair, Gigginstown opted for this race.
"He'll be entered in Leopardstown and the King George. I thought it was a good performance. He jumped well the whole way and I liked the way from the third-last to the line he put distance on them.
"We didn't want to make all, it wasn't ideal, but we didn't want it to be cat and mouse. He's fulfilling his potential."
Elliott and Carberry teamed up to complete personal doubles when 2-1 favourite Vasco Du Mee jumped into the lead four out and quickly swept clear to take the Rainbow Communications Handicap Chase by an eased-down 31 lengths.
There was a shock for punters in what looked a pretty hot renewal of the Value Cabs 3-Y-O Hurdle when Eamon Delany's 50-1 shot Scooping made all under Conor Maxwell, finding plenty to win by three and three-quarter lengths after looking a sitting duck.