New father Flanagan dreaming of Gold Cup glory on Road To Respect
Road To Respect is one of the new kids on the block on the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup scene and so too is his rider – and new father – Sean Flanagan, who will be having his first ride in the race aged 29 and says he "wouldn't swap the seven-year-old for anything" in the race, not even favourite Might Bite.
A win in the Gold Cup on his first attempt is certainly not beyond the bounds of possibility, as the absence of last year's winner Sizing John has seen Road To Respect shorten into no bigger than 9-1 on Saturday.
And it would crown a memorable few days for Flanagan, who became a father for the first time in the early hours of Wednesday morning when his partner Lauren gave birth to Lilah Darcy.
Flanagan took over as Noel Meade's stable jockey in September 2016 following the retirement of Paul Carberry and, after enjoying Grade 1 glory on Disko last season, he now has his eyes firmly fixed on the biggest prize of all with Road To Respect, a festival winner last year in the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate ago by six lengths.
The rider said: "If you had told me this time last year that I'd be fancying Road To Respect to win a Gold Cup, I'd have laughed. But he has done nothing but improve and Noel [Meade] has done some job with him.
"I schooled him at the Curragh last week and he felt great. He's in super form and ready to rock.
"He enjoyed being ridden a bit more patiently at Leopardstown and the way he stayed on after the last makes me confident that he'll stay the longer Gold Cup trip. He's a different horse now. It's hard to knock his form and I wouldn't swap him for anything."
Flanagan added: "It has been a whirlwind of a week but becoming a Dad is something else. It's some buzz – incredible. I can't stop smiling. It's magic."
That smile could last for a lot longer and nappy changing would become all the more enjoyable if Road To Respect supplements his success in the Christmas Chase at Leopardstown with Gold Cup glory.
Flanagan has no problem remembering the name of the horse he is riding in the Gold Cup, but remembering the name of his new daughter has proved less straightforward.
"I was supposed to be on a preview night panel the other night in Portlaoise. I was in the hospital with Lauren and the baby and couldn't make it so I did an intrerview over the phone instead with Matt Chapman," Flanagan said.
"Everything was going grand until Matt asked me had we named her yet. I said we have. He asked me her name. Do you think I could remember the name? Not a hope. Disaster.
"Well the whole place erupted with laughter and of course Matt had a field day – he reckoned that there was no baby at all and that it was just a far-fetched excuse I came up with so I didn't have to do the preview night!"
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