Road to Riches puts his Cheltenham Gold Cup credentials on the line at Leopardstown on Saturday and connections will really want to win this to prove his well-being as a serious player in March.
He was third to Coneygree last season but hasn’t raced since winning at Clonmel last November. But this isn’t the time to be minding him. If he gets beat he could be left in no mans’ land six weeks out from the Festival. He could improve on better ground but won a Lexus Chase on soft so he should cope fine.
An authoritative display could really stake his claim in what is a really open year. If he does win well, it will give Bryan Cooper a serious headache as he’ll have to add Noel Meade’s runner to the mix with the two Dons – Cossack and Poli – of his potential Gold Cup mounts.
I might give Michael O’Leary a bell to see if needs an extra pair of hands …
It doesn’t look the strongest renewal on paper but veterans like last year’s winner Carlingford Lough and First Lieutenant should keep him honest.
JP McManus’s Gilgamboa is interesting and Barry Geraghty has chosen him over JP’s Carlingford Lough. He’s still lightly raced, was fourth off top-weight in the Paddy Power Gold Cup and is a Grade One winner on soft ground at Fairyhouse last year. If he was to show up well he could enter calculations for the Gold Cup or even the Ryanair Chase at the Festival.
One to watch
There should be some interesting fall-out from the rest of Leopardstown’s card on Saturday – particularly the Grade One Deloitte Novice Hurdle.
Ruby Walsh has picked Belshill in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle (1.55pm) and it looks a match on paper with Gordon Elliott’s Tombstone.
It will take a big performance from either of them to win it and an even bigger one at Cheltenham to lower Yanworth’s colours in the Neptune Hurdle.
Peace & Co faces a similar test at Sandown (1.15pm) and should really be winning this ‘on the bridle’ to be a live contender for the Champion Hurdle next month.
Wetherby 2:45pm, Towtown Novices’ Chase (Grade 2)
I’m due to ride Bitofapuzzle for Harry Fry on Saturday and she could be well in on ratings particularly getting the mares allowance. She’s in the middle of Blaklion and Native River in the RSA Chase betting so whoever comes on on top here will probably leapfrog the other. No More Heroes and More of That set the standard in it – but there’ll be plenty thinking that they’ll be in with a chance if they run well here.
She tipped up when going well at Thurles but hadn’t been out of the frame in all her starts before that.
She has a decent chance and we think a fair bit of her and she seems in very good form when I schooled her the other morning.
If anything happens to Wetherby – and I hope it doesn’t Bitofapuzzle could switch to the Grade One Scilly Isles Chase at Sandown (2.25pm) where Lizzie Kelly and Tea for Two looks to follow up their Grade One win in the Kauto Star Chase at Kempton.
But Bristol De Mai looked to improve again for the step up in trip to 2m 4f at Haydock last time. While both are very good horses – I’d just fancy Bristol De Mai to shade it and I can see him and take up the entry in the JLT Chase next month for the Twiston-Davies yard, particularly if they are sending Blaklion to the RSA Chase.
I won on Unioniste around Sandown last season and it’s a track that suits him. The way the fences are laid out – the Railway fences in particular – keeps him jumping and keeps him thinking. He won off a mark of 148 that day and is rated 150 now so he should be competitive in the 3m Handicap Chase (3pm).
The 3m trip will suit and he looks to be on target for another crack at the Aintree National. Charlie Longsdon’s Drop out Joe has won his last two and is improving.