Presenting Percy is already a Superstar name among the purist Cheltenham fraternity in Ireland and the UK and perhaps rightly so, as a dual Cheltenham Festival winner hailing from a small but popular yard.
As the 2019 Gold Cup Jolly was due to put the finishing touches on his preparations for a seeming date with destiny on Friday 15th of March, confidence couldn’t have been higher in the air around the horse approaching this weekend. On Friday morning though, news emerged he would not be declared for his prep run in the Red Mills Chase, which means he may now go straight to the Gold Cup as favourite, without having had a run over fences all season.
This time last year, Pat Kelly’s 8yo gelding was beaten by the ill-fated Our Duke when he was in receipt of 7lb from that horse. It was a quality effort in its own right, an enjoyable horse race and ultimately led to him improving on it handsomely to win the RSA Chase in style. Following an excellent win over hurdles here last time out, this seemed to be the ideal stepping stone to a third Festival success under his partner in crime Davy Russell.
As to the horse’s current health status, I am yet to hear, but we can only hope he is sound and remains on track.
As a punter and in respect of the uniquely gruelling test a Cheltenham Gold Cup is, you’d have to harbour real concerns about his experience and profile going into the race now, given he hasn’t jumped a fence in public since the RSA Chase. It is a shame we don’t get to see this somewhat mythical creature perform on Saturday, but fingers crossed for a speedy return.
Gowran Park – 2.30pm
Willie Mullins has won the Red Mills Chase three times in the past ten years, all with strong market leaders and perhaps 11yo KILLULTAGH VIC can earn a timely victory in 2019 as a likely second favourite behind Monalee.
A talented but quirky veteran, Killultagh was held in 3rd by Presenting Percy last time out, but ran to a far more promising level than a poor effort on New Year’s Eve at Punchestown.
Here, larger obstacles, a shorter trip and a favourable pull at the weights with his chief threat make him of major interest under Ruby Walsh. Monalee is clearly a grand chaser, just not one I’ve warmed to, while Edwulf needs a telling revival here to be considered a player at this level going forward. Anibale Fly ran to an RPR of 132 last time out and is vulnerable looking now too. Killultagh Vic deserves to land a nice pot and I can envisage him out-battling Monalee from the back of the last to the line in the 3.05pm showpiece chase.
Gowran Park – 1.50pm
Earlier on in the card at 1.50pm, Triumph Hurdle winner Farclas looks to get a win on the board in the Grade 3 Red Mills Trial Hurdle over two miles. He was 25 lengths behind Apple’s Jade last time out, which puts paid to any realistic Champion Hurdle hopes, but he wouldn’t need to improve massively on that to go close here.
Last year’s winner Forge Meadow hasn’t been quite the same horse since and looks up against it to me. Although his Naas run in January was a step in right direction, it still leaves him with a bit to do and he was readily held in 4th behind Espoir D’Allen. All told, Joseph O’Brien’s unexposed French recruit DARASSO may prove the one to be on. A strongly built sort now rated 149, this 6yo has shaped with good promise over 2m4f and 3m in his two starts in Ireland so far and this drop to two miles rates an interesting experiment.
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