Presenting Percy, one of the most frustrating horses in training, is a hopeful choice to finally put it all together and land a wide open Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup this afternoon, writes Pat Keane
We know he hasn’t won over fences for two years, not since running away with the RSA Chase here, and cannot possibly provide the solution on his most recent form.
Last year, Presenting Percy went off the 100-30 favourite for the Gold Cup, but ran no sort of race, trailing in eighth of nine finishers behind Al Boum Photo.
But it was no great surprise, because, for various reasons, he had a dreadful preparation and the Gold Cup was his first race of the campaign over fences.
He made a promising start in the John Durkan at Punchestown in early December when third, over an inadequate two and a half miles, behind Min and Hardline.
Presenting Percy then, disappointingly, failed to build on that 20 days later when only fifth to Delta Work in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown at Christmas.
Next port of call was the Irish Gold Cup in early February, back at Leopardstown, and this was far better.
Davy Russell’s charge jumped and travelled like a steam engine for most of the journey and one would not have wanted to be on anything else over two from home.
But he did not pick up in the manner anticipated, although staying on dourly to fill third spot behind Delta Work and Kemboy.
Wanting to be with Presenting Percy today basically depends on the notion his trainer, Pat Kelly, has planned to have him at the peak of his powers for the only race that really counts and it is now or never for Presenting Percy.
There are dangers wherever you look, led by last year’s winner, Al Boum Photo. He has been given the exact same preparation on this occasion, enjoying an easy success at Tramore.
Willie Mullins’ inmate was good 12 months ago, but does beating Anibale Fly and Bristol De Mai amount to a whole lot?
Santini, if only for the fact is trained by Nicky Henderson, is entitled to the utmost respect. Second to Topofthegame in the RSA Chase last year, Delta Work was a length and three parts behind in third, Santini is unbeaten in his two races this season.
He was less than impressive first time out at Sandown, but was back on song at Cheltenham in the Grade 2 Cotswold Chase in late January, beating Bristol De Mai by three and a half lengths.
The puzzling horse of the contest is Paul Nicholls’ Clan Des Obeaux. He shaped as a non-stayer behind Al Boum Photo last year, fading in the straight to finish fifth.
Nicholls, however, has altered the way things are done with Clan Des Obeaux and we have not seen him since winning the King George at Kempton at Christmas by a whopping 21 lengths.
Colin Tizzard’s Lostintranslation is another to consider, but does have to leave a shocking effort in the King George behind to play a part.
The 19-runner, stamina-sapping three-mile Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle is going to be hard won, with the nod falling on Paul Nolan’s Latest Exhibition.
It has been a case of steady progress throughout the season for the lightly-raced seven-year-old, who seems to possess an excellent attitude and a solid will to win.
That should stand him in good stead, in a contest where getting down and dirty will be an essential ingredient!
Latest Exhibition was last seen in a Grade 1 at the Dublin Racing Festival in early February at Leopardstown, finding loads for Bryan Cooper driving to beat a pair of smart rivals in Cobbler’s Way and Longhouse Poet. He was staying on dourly at the end of two miles and six and another two furlongs now, you’d imagine, will play to his strengths.
It looks as if Front View has been laid out for the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle and gets the vote to cope with no less than 23 rivals. He was returning from a break of three months when six lengths second to Five O’Clock in a Grade 3 at Thurles last month and can reverse the placings, on 6lbs better terms.
Pat Keane's best bets
2.50: Latest Exhibition (e/w)
3.30: Presenting Percy (Nap)
5.30: Front View (e/w)