Road To Respect carves out Christmas Chase glory

Road To Respect carves out Christmas Chase glory

Road To Respect led home a one-two-three for Gigginstown House Stud with Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Sizing John well beaten in the Leopardstown Christmas Chase.

The winner, ridden by Sean Flanagan and trained by Noel Meade, powered to victory on the run-in to back up his other Grade One success in the Ryanair Gold Cup Novice Chase at Fairyhouse in April.

The 16-1 shot was chased home by Henry de Bromhead’s Balko Des Flos (66-1) and the Gordon Elliott-trained Outlander (8-1).

Gigginstown were also responsible for the fifth and sixth, in Alpha Des Obeaux and Valseur Lido.

Sean Flanagan is delighted with the biggest success of his riding career to date on board Road to Respect pic.twitter.com/0NCQ7ytq6F

— RTÉ Racing (@RTEracing) December 28, 2017

Flanagan said: “He’s been a very good horse to me in general and did everything perfectly today, I’m delighted.

“I thought halfway down the back I was too far back and was flat out and couldn’t be much closer. There was no hiding place and it was a true-run race.

“To be fair when I got a bit of room he came alive. He’s got loads of speed. He’s a very good horse.”

He added: “I wouldn’t be worried about the (Cheltenham) Gold Cup distance as he settled well there and he has won at the track before.”

Noel Meade has eyes on even bigger prizes after Road to Respect claimed the Leopardstown Christmas Chase pic.twitter.com/gXymAtVzDR

— RTÉ Racing (@RTEracing) December 28, 2017

Paddy Power slashed Road To Respect to 8-1 from 20-1 for the Gold Cup, with King George winner Might Bite the 4-1 favourite from 11-2 and Sizing John out to 8-1 from 4-1. RaceBets and Betfair cut Road To Respect to 10-1 for the big prize in March.

Meade said: “Everything went according to plan. The hood obviously worked well. Sean rode him the other day and he said maybe a hood might help him to settle early on. He settled great and he gave him a most beautiful ride.

“I suppose when it works out it’s always a great ride, but it was actually an absolute peach of a ride.

“He’s a Gold Cup contender now, so he’ll so for the Gold Cup. Whether he runs in between or not, I don’t know.

“I suppose if he did he would run back here, but we have to think where Disko is going to go as well. We’ll talk to Eddie and Michael (O’Leary) and see what they are going to do.”

He added: “I always felt we were travelling like a winner, but I didn’t let a yip out of me until they were 50 yards from the line.

“Sean has gone from strength to strength for us since he took over (from Paul Carberry as stable jockey) and we couldn’t be happier. We get on very well together and he rides very well. The more confidence he gets, the better he is riding.

“We were very hopeful as he was in terrific form. We knew he was in great shape and we were just hoping that he’d keep improving.

“He had to improve a lot to get up there, he had another 10lb to get up there. We thought he had, as he did a bit of work in Fairyhouse last week and did it very well.”

The Jessica Harrington-trained Sizing John was a distant seventh under Robbie Power, who said his mount “was never going”. The seven-year-old was reported to be distressed following the race and found to be clinically abnormal after being examined by veterinary staff.

One place behind Sizing John was Yorkhill, whose trainer Willie Mullins said: “It’s disappointing and I’m not sure he has a career as a three-mile chaser. It’s back to the drawing board with him.”

There was a sad footnote to proceedings, with Andrew Lynch’s Grade One winner Zabana being fatally injured in a fall at the seventh fence.

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