Robbie Power wants Gold Cup hope Our Duke to 'step up' at Down Royal

Fri 3 Nov 2017

By Racinguk.com staff

Robbie Power has challenged Our Duke to confirm himself a genuine Gold Cup contender on his seasonal reappearance in the JNwine.com Champion Chase at Down Royal.

Jessica Harrington's charge was successful in three of his four starts as a novice over fences last season and was a spectacular winner of the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse.

The seven-year-old is a general 8-1 shot for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, a race Harrington and Power combined to win with Sizing John last season, and his credentials will be given an early test in County Antrim.

Speaking at a National Hunt season preview, Power said: "Sizing John is the Gold Cup winner and Our Duke has to step up to that level. At the end of the day he's won a Grade One novice chase and a handicap.

"He has to make the step to prove that he's a genuine Gold Cup contender, starting on Saturday. There is a lot of water to pass under the bridge between now and next March. Hopefully Our Duke will make that progression."

Power believes Our Duke is fit enough to do himself justice, but feels the presence Road To Respect, who has already had a run this autumn, makes it a tough ask.

"He's as fit as we could have him without having a run. He's been away for a racecourse gallop," the jockey added. "Obviously Road To Respect has a massive advantage as he's had a run under his belt.

The Easter Festival - BoyleSports Irish Grand National Day - Fairyhouse Races

Power and Our Duke combined for an impressive win in the Irish Grand National

"Our horse is going there in great form and we couldn't be happier with him. He's had a great run since he's come back in and hasn't missed a beat. Hopefully he is fit enough."

Road To Respect won at the Cheltenham Festival in March before claiming the notable scalp of the Yorkhill in the Ryanair Gold Cup at Fairyhouse.

He picked up where he left off when beating a strong field in last month's Irish Daily Star Chase at Punchestown and trainer Noel Meade has been delighted with his subsequent progress.

The Tu Va handler said: "We're very happy with Road To Respect and we couldn't have asked for any more on his first run back. He picked up really well and he won well.

"He came out of the race in Punchestown really well. Danny Benson rides him all the time and he's thrilled with him. He said he's in great shape since he ran."

The trainer added: "My biggest worry is the fact that he keeps jumping that bit left. When I looked at his race again in Punchestown he did give away a good bit of ground, which in a Grade One he can't afford to do that. I'd be hoping now that he would jump a bit straighter the next day."

Road To Respect is one of four runners for Gigginstown House Stud, who have claimed this prize five times in the last six years. Michael O'Leary's operation is also represented in this season's renewal by Sub Lieutenant, Alpha Des Obeaux and Outlander.

Another leading owner, JP McManus, is double-handed, with Jonjo O'Neill's British challenger More Of That joined by the John Kiely-trained Carlingford Lough. The latter was last of seven runners behind Road To Respect at Punchestown little over a fortnight ago and needs to raise his game.

Kiely said: "We'll hope for a respectable run and we'll know after the race where we are. He might be a better horse on a level track and Leopardstown is probably his best track. We don't know how he'll handle Down Royal. What runs well in the race on Saturday will be around (at the top level) for the season."

Andrew Lynch's stable star Zabana completes the eight-strong field.

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