O'LEARY ON GOLDEN HIGHWAY WITH ROAD TO RESPECT
Michael O'Leary, owner of Gigginstown House Stud, was delighted with the performance of Noel Meade's Road To Respect (14/1), who was an impressive winner of the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate, the fifth race, on day three, St Patrick's Thursday, of the 2017 Cheltenham Festival.
Ridden by Bryan Cooper, the six-year-old son of Gamut jumped the last superbly before staying on stoutly up the hill to beat Gary Moore's Baron Alco (10/1) by six lengths.
Paul Nicholls' Bouvreuil ((10/1) was a length and three-quarters back in third, with a further two and three-quarter lengths to Thomas Crapper (7/1) in fourth.
The victory was O'Leary's third of the week and the Ryanair supremo was pleased to get another winner on the board. He said: "It's great and I'm delighted. He wants good ground and is one of the better novices in Ireland.
"I didn't think he had a chance today, but Bryan gave him a peach of a ride. He had him in the right place the whole time as there was a lot of traffic problems in behind.
"It was wonderful. Someone said it was Noel Meade's first chase winner so it just goes to show if you keep banging your head against a brick wall, eventually you will get one!"
Cooper added: "Road To Respect travelled real well. He was running in good novice races all winter long and that has probably stood to him.
"I was a bit worried about experience and he kind of over jumped the first. After that, he was very good. I gave him a bit of room to give him confidence and he bolted up.
"It is pleasure to be able to ride for Noel. I had a lot of luck for him in the first part of the job, but I have struggled to ride a winner for him the last couple of years. Thankfully, I have paid him back now."
MEADE HITS THE HIGH ROAD
Road To Respect gave trainer Noel Meade a first victory over fences at The Festival to add to his four over hurdles.
Owned by Gigginstown House Stud and ridden by Bryan Cooper, 14/1 shot Road To Respect - a three-parts brother to dual Grade One winner Road To Riches - came home a comfortable six lengths clear of second-placed Baron Alco.
Meade said: "I thought we had three good chances to be in the money today. I was a bit disappointed with Snow Falcon, but I thought Road To Respect had a great chance. I actually wanted to run him in the RSA Novices' Chase, but Gigginstown had something else for that and this race made sense, given the way the handicapper assessed him.
"The ground was a big help to me. We've always thought of him as a very nice horse. On his second chase run, in the Grade One Drinmore Novices' Chase at Fairyhouse, he was very disappointing - he was only third or fourth, and I thought he might win. He came here and was clearly well-handicapped!
"I thought early on maybe he didn't get the [two and a half mile] trip and I dropped him back to two miles, which was probably a mistake. We went for three miles last time at Navan when the ground was very bad, and Sandra Hughes' horse [Acapella Bourgeois] got away. We beat the rest of them a long way that day and he stayed galloping to the line, so we were happy with that.
"I didn't realise that was our first chase winner at The Festival. I've always thought maybe I would have won more here if I'd run more in handicaps rather than the good races, but I always think this is the championships and we try to come and win a championship. Maybe Harbour Pilot would have won a handicap chase here the first year he ran in the Gold Cup [2003, when he was third to Best Mate], but he was placed in two Gold Cups and that's the way I've always approached it."