Noel Meade is in bullish mood ahead of Road To Respect's bid for Cheltenham Gold Cup glory.
The Gigginstown House Stud-owned seven-year-old provided the master of Tu Va stables with his first ever Festival success over fences when scoring in handicap company at Prestbury Park last March before going on to claim the scalp of Yorkhill at Fairyhouse.
He has certainly raised his game to another level this season, winning two of his three starts including a top-level success in the Leopardstown Christmas Chase.
Meade has purposely kept his charge fresh for Cheltenham since and could not be happier with his condition ahead of the blue riband on March 16.
Speaking at a Festival press event at Naas on Sunday, Meade said: "I wish it was the first race on the first day! Everything has gone very well with him.
"We think he's better on the spring ground than on very heavy ground, we couldn't be happier with where he is at the moment and he does run very well fresh.
"Looking at him at the moment, he seems to have matured very well and has actually put on a bit of weight.
"He went away on Friday to do a piece of work on the track and that went really well - extremely well. We were thrilled with him.
"Whether he's good enough or not is another question. Who knows?"
Meade sees Nicky Henderson's King George VI Chase winner Might Bite and Jessica Harrington's defending champion Sizing John as the two biggest threats to his charge.
"I think the two hotpots are Might Bite and Jessie's horse (Sizing John) who, from what I hear, is flying at home. They are two proper Gold Cup horses," Meade added.
"I think there's not a whole lot between a lot of the rest of them. I'm hoping my lad is improving and he looks the part.
"He seemed to handle the track very well last year and hopefully he'll handle it again."
Road To Respect will spearhead a small but select Meade team heading for the Cotswolds.
Another horse for whom he holds high hopes is Snow Falcon, who was last seen finishing fifth behind Monalee in the Flogas Novice Chase at Leopardstown.
Meade said: "I was disappointed with him the last day he ran. He turned in looking like he'd have a good chance and kind of faded.
"I'm not sure if he ran his race that day and he was only beaten five and a half lengths.
"He's probably going to go either RSA or JLT. He is entered in a few of the handicaps, so we'll see what mark he gets."
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