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Wednesday 18 October 2017

Michael O'Leary on... Trying to win a second Gold Cup

Down Royal 1-11-14 ROAD TO RICHES & Paul Carberry Jump the last to win the Grade 1 JNwine Champion Steeplechase.(WWW.HEALYRACING.IE)
Down Royal 1-11-14 ROAD TO RICHES & Paul Carberry Jump the last to win the Grade 1 JNwine Champion Steeplechase.(WWW.HEALYRACING.IE)

MICHAEL O’Leary won the blue riband race of the Cheltenham Festival, Friday’s Cheltenham Gold Cup, back in 2006 with War Of Attrition and this year has the leading Irish hope, according to the bookmakers, in Road To Riches.

But in typical O’Leary fashion, he questions if a Galway Plate winner can win a Gold Cup and reflects on how difficult it is for any owner to win the race with two different horses.

“I would suspect the batting averages for (winning) Gold Cups is once in a lifetime,” said the Ryanair boss.

“I had horses good enough to win the Gold Cup. Last Instalment would have won a Gold Cup, Weapon’s Amnesty beat Long Run by 12 lengths in the RSA, kicked him out of the way, and never kind of ran again. Sir Des Champs, To be fair, at least he ran in the Gold Cup, and was second.

“I’ve had loads of horses who were good enough to win it but you need a combination, firstly a horse good enough – and there is very few of them – and one that stays fit and well for the season. I was incredibly fortunate to find War Of Attrition, and to win a Gold Cup with him. Then he got injured two weeks before he went back to defend the following year. That’s the way it is.

“I look at JP - he’s won about six Champion Hurdles, which is remarkable, but he’s won one Gold Cup. I’ve won one Gold Cup. There’s not that many people about there – Paul Barber, in my time who’s won two Gold Cups with two different horses.”

And on Road To Riches he added: “He has improved out of all sight in the last 12-months bit with due respect to the Galway Plate, I’m not sure that Galway Plate winners is where you find Gold Cup winners. He’s a very good horse, I’m just not sure he’s a Gold Cup horse.

“It is wide open. Silviniaco Conti looked far more impressive winning at Kempton than our fellow did when he won the Lexus, by what, a couple of lengths.

“They all finished in a blanket. A lot of them came out again and got beaten six/eight lengths by Carlingford Lough. It’s great to have a horse in the race and his odds of 8/1 are about right. He has a reasonable chance, that’s all.”

Big one or bust?

So on the eve of the meeting that saw O’Leary enjoy a roller coaster ride last year, would he take four winners or a Gold Cup if given either option right now?

“I’d take the Gold Cup. But last year was still great. After Tiger Roll won the first one, we had Very Wood in the Albert Bartlett, a 33/1 shot. I went back up to the box for lunch because ‘this fellow has no chance.’ Noel’s horses were in terrible form all year but he comes out and wins, great.

“I never win a handicap at Cheltenham, didn’t think we’d win the Martin Pipe with Don Poli and he wins and Savello was a complete fluke.

Sure, it was great. The two graded wins were important. It’s nice to win a handicap at Cheltenham but I wouldn’t take them to my grave. Whereas the JCB Triumph Hurdle and Albert Bartlett Hurdle are Grade Ones, I like graded races.”

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