JLT confirmed as Festival target for Apache
Trainer Noel Meade has confirmed the JLT Novices’ Chase as the Cheltenham Festival target for Apache Stronghold following his thrilling victory in the Grade 1 Flogas Chase, and Coral make him a 5/1 shot to claim the 2m 4f contest and provide his handler with a first winner over the larger obstacles at the four-day spectacular.
Meade has saddled just three winners at the Festival, and all those successes have some hurdle contests with Sausalito Bay (2000) and Go Native (2006) triumphing in the Supreme and Nicanor (2006), capturing the spoils in the Neptune when it was known as the Royal & SunAlliance.
In Apache Stronghold, the County Meath handler has a strapping seven-year-old who is improving with every run over fences and looked the real deal when getting up late under a sublime ride from Paul Carberry to beat the highly regarded Valseur Lido by 1/2 a length in the Flogas.
The race, known formerly known as the Dr P.J.Moriarty Novice Chase, has proved a good Festival trial over the years and Meade reports Apache Stronghold to have come out of it in good form and believes that the 2m 4f trip of the JLT is ideal for the son of Milan at this stage of his career.
Apache Stronghold is part of a strong team that Meade is assembling for the Festival, spearheaded by Gold Cup hope Road To Riches.
The eight-year-old has a highly progressive profile and has delighted his handler since posting a career-best performance to land the Grade 1 Lexus Chase at Leopardstown on December 28th.
Lexus’ form has been boosted with the fifth home Carlingford Lough having gone on to land the Irish Hennessy, and Road To Riches is 8/1 with Coral to provide owners the Gigginnstown House Stud with their second winner of the blue riband contest following the success of War Of Attrition in 2006.
Another Meade inmate bound for Prestbury Park is Monksland, narrowly beaten by Dedigout in the Galmoy Hurdle at Gowran Park last month.
That was the eight-year-old’s second run following a 730 day on the sidelines, and the former smart novice is sure to progress for it.
Meade isn’t planning another outing for Monksland before the World Hurdle, and Coral go 16/1 about him for the 3m feature contest on Thursday, March 12th.