By Racinguk.com staff
Noel Meade hopes for better ground when Road To Respect and Our Duke clash in the Unibet Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown on February 4.Road To Respect is a best-priced 12-1 for the Timico Gold Cup, the same price as Our Duke (PA)
Road To Respect won the Leopardstown Chase over Christmas, while the Jessica Harrington-trained Our Duke, a star novice last season, needs to bounce back after his reappearance in the JNWine.com Champion Chase at Down Royal in November, when it was later discovered he was suffering from a back problem.
Meade, whose seven-year-old worked at the Dublin track on Tuesday morning, said: "He looks like he's been improving all the time.
"I think at the moment it's the plan. Eddie (O'Leary, of Gigginstown House Stud) said to us to keep moving in that direction and we'll see how we are going.
"One worry would be if the ground is very heavy. He does seem to be a little bit better on better ground, although he has run well on heavy, too.
"He won a two-five in Cheltenham very easily. Yorkhill was going to beat him in Fairyhouse if he stayed straight, but in fairness to the horse, he took advantage of Yorkhill's mistakes and he's never really looked back since then.
"He's inclined to jump a bit left left himself. I think in the north (Down Royal), when Outlander beat him, that's what really beat him and he ran a little bit keen early on that day.
"At all stages of that race he looked like he was going to win and it was a bit gut-wrenching that he didn't win, but that's racing.
"He's not a horse we do an awful lot of work with. Today is the first time he's gone a bit quicker since he ran at Christmas."
Harrington said of her Irish Grand National winner: "He seems to be in good form. We had to do a bit of an operation on him after Down Royal and he seems to have recovered from that.
"He schooled around Punchestown a couple of weeks ago and he's going to have another schooling session this week somewhere.
"He does run well fresh. If I have him back in the same form as he was for the Irish National last year, I think he'll run a big race.
"He's a definite runner at the moment, but we've another two weeks or more to go so nothing is set in stone."
Down Royal victor Outlander is set to reoppose the big two.
Davy Condon, assistant to trainer Gordon Elliott, said: "He'll take his chance. He likes Leopardstown and is a Grade One winner around here."
"You have to get him on a going day, but it looks like a fairly open contest and they are all within a few pounds of each other.
"If you get him on a going day, he'll be bang there."
Anibale Fly, Coney Island, Killultagh Vic and Djakadam are also entered in the highlight on day two of the Dublin Racing Festival.
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