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Big shock in Leopardstown Christmas Chase as Michael O'Leary horses finish 1-2-3

Gigginstown House Stud celebrated four winners on the third day of the Christmas Festival.

Road to Respect (yellow hat) jumps the last on the way to beating Balko des Flos.
Road to Respect (yellow hat) jumps the last on the way to beating Balko des Flos.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

ROAD TO RESPECT sprang a shock to win the Leopardstown Christmas Chase on Thursday and thrust himself firmly into the Cheltenham Gold Cup reckoning.

Noel Meade’s charge was sent off the 8/1 fourth favourite in a red-hot renewal featuring defending Cheltenham champion Sizing John, Yorkhill and Djakadam.

But Sean Flanagan steered him home to take the €88,500 first prize and head up a 1-2-3 finish for Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown House Stud.

Balko des Flos, a 66/1 outsider, was just a length and a quarter away in second while Outlander (16/1) was third.

It was a disappointing day for the big guns with Sizing John and Yorkhill tailed off in a distant seventh and eighth respectively, while Djakadam was pulled up.

But Road to Respect has now been cut to 10/1 generally for the Gold Cup, shaking up the wide-open betting for Cheltenham’s big prize.

It capped a superb day for Gigginstown, bringing up a brilliant four-timer for O’Leary’s squad including the day’s other Grade 1 prize, the Squared Financial Christmas Hurdle, which went to Apple’s Jade (4/6 fav).

Stepping up to three miles for the first time, the mare dug deep to hold off Supasundae and win by half a length, although the race was overshadowed by a fatal fall for Willie Mullins’ star Nichols Canyon.

Leopardstown – Thursday’s results

12.15 - 1. Flawless Escape (11/4 2fav) 2. Jetez (10/1) 3. Francin (6/4 fav)

12.50 - 1. Mine Now (33/1) 2. A Great View (10/1) 3. Glenloe (8/1)

1.20 - 1. Apple’s Jade (4/6 fav) 2. Supasundae (7/1)

1.50 - 1. Hardback (16/1) 2. Low Sun (10/1) 3. Sweet Company (9/1)

2.25 - 1. Alighted (16/1) 2. Young Wolf (11/2 2fav) 3. Voix des Tiep (9/10)

3.00 - 1. Road to Respect (8/1) 2. Balko des Flos (66/1) 3. Outlander (16/1)

3.35 - 1. Snow Falcon (11/8 2fav) 2. Wishmoor (10/1)

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Tragedy at Leopardstown as Cheltenham champion Nichols Canyon suffers fatal fall

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Niall Kelly

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