Road To Respect Meade's first festival winner over fences
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again.
Multiple Grade 1-winning trainer Noel Meade has enjoyed several Gold Cup placings but a first chase success at the festival had eluded him until now, with Road To Respect scoring in the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate.
It may not have been the much-sought-after Ryanair Chase for owners Michael and Eddie O’Leary, but their delight in the winner’s enclosure was clear to see after Bryan Cooper, notching his second winner of the week, steered the six-year-old to a six-length success over Baron Alco.
Meade, who has been training for 27 years, fielded phone calls offering congratulations by the minute following the race, and in the aftermath described just how hard it is to train a winner at the showpiece meeting.
He said: “It’s so difficult to train a winner here, let alone in a handicap. He’s probably a Graded horse, he’d have to be after that, and you need that class edge.
“Every race is hard to win here – Paul Nicholls and Philip Hobbs haven’t had a winner yet and that says it all. Everyone comes here trying to win, whether it's top Irish trainers or smaller trainers – Pat Kelly is the only one that's got it sussed. It’s very tricky.
“I wasn’t aware we hadn't had a chase winner at the festival but I suppose we haven’t had too many runners. Harbour Pilot was third in two Gold Cups and Road To Riches has gone close – but at least we’ve ended that run.”
Handicap chases might not be on the horizon for Road To Respect for too much longer with Meade revealing that earlier in the season he was tempted to tackle Grade 1 company at the festival.
He said: “I was pretty keen to run him in the RSA because I thought he had the ability to be competitive, but we went through the season and got mixed up a bit with him. I thought he might not have stayed in the Drinmore so we dropped him back to two miles and found out that was too sharp.
“We shouldn’t rule out him getting three miles, but around two and a half is his trip for now.”
Baron Alco, trained by Gary Moore, missed out on the £60,000 bonus put up by SIS and Plumpton for a double at the East Sussex track and the festival but nevertheless ran a gallant race, with Bouvreuil and Thomas Crapper behind him in third and fourth.
Jamie Moore, who rode the runner-up, said: "Baron Alco jumped well all the way around – it's just annoying to finish second. He's ran a stormer and done everything right. I wish we'd have run him in the Close Brothers [novice handicap chase] as he'd have gone very close in that.”
On an emphatic day for Ireland – this was the fifth of their six winners – owner Michael O'Leary had a comment on the BetBright Cup battle.
He said: "No-one cares about the British/Irish thing, you just want a winner. It's a nonsense really."