Cheltenham Festival: Sean Flanagan eyeing Gold Cup glory

6 months ago

Jockey Sean Flanagan is set to make his Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup debut on Friday, riding Noel Meade’s Road to Respect. Flanagan, who recently became a father, revealed that he is so confident of Road to Respect’s chances, that he “wouldn’t swap the seven-year-old for anything” – even runaway favourite Might Bite.

Claiming the Cheltenham Gold Cup on your first attempt is no easy feat, but with last year’s winner Sizing John ruled out through injury, a host of new possibilities have opened up for Friday’s riders. With many punters eyeing a showdown between Nicky Henderson’s Might Bite and Jessica Harrington’s Our Duke, few have given Road to Respect a second glance. But could the 7yo be on course to receive the ‘respect’ it deserves?

The Chestnut Gelding has won four of his last five races, including two huge victories at Leopardstown and Punchestown. He also claimed a convincing festival win last year in the Brown Advisory and Merriebelle Staple Plate – winning by six lengths.

It’s been a busy few days for Sean Flanagan. In the early hours of Wednesday morning, the 29-year-old’s wife gave birth to a baby daughter, and with the possibility of a Gold Cup victory ahead of him, Flanagan could put a cherry on top of a perfect week.

“It has been a whirlwind of a week but becoming a Dad is something else. It’s some buzz – incredible. I can’t stop smiling. It’s magic.” said Flanagan.

He said of Road to Respect: “If you had told me this time last year that I’d be fancying Road To Respect to win a Gold Cup, I’d have laughed. But he has done nothing but improve and Noel [Meade] has done some job with him.

“I schooled him at the Curragh last week and he felt great. He’s in super form and ready to rock.

“He enjoyed being ridden a bit more patiently at Leopardstown and the way he stayed on after the last makes me confident that he’ll stay the longer Gold Cup trip. He’s a different horse now. It’s hard to knock his form and I wouldn’t swap him for anything.”

Photos: Getty