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Road To Respect heads straight to Cheltenham as ten stand their ground for Dublin Racing Festival feature

Tue 30 Jan 2018

Road To Respect is to head straight to Cheltenham after being taken out of the Unibet Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown due to the prospect of unsuitable ground conditions at the Dublin track on Sunday.

Road To Respect Ptown 03

Connections did not want to risk the Noel Meade-trained seven-year-old on the likely soft ground with the Festival coming up next month.

Already a Cheltenham winner, Road To Respect leapt into the Gold Cup picture when wining the Leopardstown Christmas Chase. He also holds an entry in the Ryanair Chase.

"He'll go straight to Cheltenham," said Eddie O'Leary, racing manager for owners Gigginstown House Stud.

"He's grand, but the ground will be too soft for him. If it happened come up the same as at Christmas he'd have run, but it won't."

Despite Road To Respect's withdrawal, Gigginstown still had three - Alpha Des Obeaux, Outlander and Valseur Lido - among 10 left in the three-mile Grade One contest following the confirmation stage.

"I don't know about Alpha Des Obeaux, but the other two will hopefully run," said O'Leary.

Willie Mullins has two strings to his bow in the shape of dual Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Djakadam and Killultagh Vic, who made a winning return over hurdles at Punchestown on New Year's Eve after nearly two years on the sidelines.

Owner Rich Ricci is hoping Djakadam can bounce back to form after being pulled up behind Road To Respect at Christmas, having made an encouraging reappearance when second to Sizing John in the John Durkan Chase at Punchestown earlier in December.

Ricci said: "Djakadam has a lot of questions to answer. I thought his run first time out was very good. as he looked big to me.

"Willie said he was not as forward as in previous years. I think the Irish Gold Cup is important to him as he has got to show some sparkle to have any chance of coming to Cheltenham and being competitive.

"I was hoping that he and Sizing John can write that last race off as coming too soon."

Last year's winner Sizing John may not be defending his crown but his trainer Jessica Harrington still has Our Duke in contention.

The 2017 Irish Grand National hero is another on a retrieval mission, having flopped in the JNwine.com Champion Chase at Down Royal n his seasonal return.

As well as Outlander, Gordon Elliott has Mala Beach, while the sole British raider is Jonjo O'Neill's Minella Rocco, who was runner-up in the Cheltenham Gold Cup last season.

The list of acceptors is completed by Anibale Fly and Edwulf.

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