Willie Mullins 10 Gordon Elliott 0. The two heavyweights among the training ranks in Ireland have had mixed fortunes when it comes to the Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup.
Mullins advances towards Sunday’s €250,000 showpiece at Leopardstown seeking an eleventh triumph and has so much depth to his team that he can afford to let Al Boum Photo, his Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, stand idle at home when the tapes rise.
By contrast, Elliott’s quest for an elusive first victory in the showpiece goes on.
Outlander was beaten a neck in the 2018 renewal, and 12 months earlier Empire Of Dirt and Don Poli had finished second and third for him in a rousing finale.
Last year, Elliott was responsible for half of the four runners but still went home empty-handed. They they trailed home third and fourth.
This weekend, he relies on rising star Delta Work, while the ace in Mullins’ three-strong pack is Kemboy. But will the ante-post favourites be upstaged? Here’s a guide to the nine declared runners.
1. ANIBALE FLY
Trainer: Tony Martin. Official rating (in Britain): 158. Paddy Power's odds: 50-1
Placed in the past two runnings of the Cheltenham Gold Cup, beating all bar Al Boum Photo last season (watch above). Followed that with a creditable fifth in the Grand National but he has been below-par in his two races this term. No surprise if the spark returns, but with the handicapper easing him 6lb in the ratings it could be that his connections are ticking him over en route to another tilt at the National.
Trainer: Willie Mullins. Official rating: 166. Odds: 20-1
Watch a full replay of last year's Irish Gold Cup
Won last year’s renewal after a good scrap with Road To Respect and it was a tip in itself that Ruby Walsh subsequently chose to ride him in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, even if that decision proved misguided. Made a low-key return when seventh in the Savills Chase and will need to be back to his best to have any chance of turning the tables on such as Delta Work, Kemboy and Presenting Percy.
What they sayy: Patrick Mullins: “I think his form is far superior going right-handed, but there is a shortage of races
Trainer: Willie Mullins. Official rating: 160. Odds: 50-1
The highlight of his campaign last term was his dashing win in the Topham over the Grand National fences at Aintree (watch above). He was unable to make much impact on his return dropped back in distance behind A Plus Tard over 2m 1f at Leopardstown over Christmas but, equally, he is unproven over this far. Others are much more obvious.
4. CHRIS’S DREAM
Trainer: Henry De Bromhead. Official rating: 160. Odds: 9-1
His form as a novice last season was a little patchy but there was no disputing the authority of his success in a stamina-sapping Troytown at Navan in November, when he hammered a big field off a rating of 146. That was his third win at Navan – he is clearly well served by the demands of that stiff track – but Sunday will be his first visit to Leopardstown and he jumps in class. Deep ground would help him.
What they say: Watch the Henry De Bromhead interview above:
5. DELTA WORK
Trainer: Gordon Elliott. Official rating: 169. Odds: 5-2
The Verdict: Watch what our experts made of the Savills Chase
Won the Pertemps Final in 2018 but came into his own over fences last term, when winning three times at Grade One level – including over course and distance. His only defeat was when a close third in a compelling RSA Chase. Not at his best on his return at Down Royal in November, but dug deep to land the Savills Chase back here over Christmas and clearly warrants lots of respect.
What they say: Eddie O'Leary: " We’re hoping for a good clear run and a clear round and we’ll see what we can do. We hope there’s more improvement in him. I think he’ll need to improve, they all will.”
Trainer: Jessica Harrington. Official rating: 155. Odds: 100-1
The nine-year-old has already rattled up 26 runs over fences and must be a fun horse to won given that he runs so regularly and is often in the prize-money. Ran creditably when sixth in the Savills Chase last time, although he was well-positioned in a steadily-run race and probably flattered to be beaten only a dozen lengths.
Trainer: Willie Mullins. Official rating: 177. Odds: 11-8
How good was Kemboy when beating Al Boum Photo in the Punchestown Gold Cup?
He was superb when landing the Savills Chase last season and his subsequent triumphs at Aintree and Punchestown made him, officially, the highest-rated chaser in Britain and Ireland. His return was delayed until the Savills Chase and, ridden less forcefully than on other occasions, he had settle for fourth (beaten about three lengths) behind Delta Work. Should be sharper here, although his tendency to jump right last time was a little disconcerting.
What they sayy: Patrick Mullins: “It was a funny-run race at Christmas, but Kemboy has come out of it perfectly and we’re going back there with him. He has surprised us. As a novice hurdler and a novice chaser he was a good horse, but not a real Grade One horse – he has just improved with stepping up in trip and maybe a change of tactics to roll him out in front a bit more.
8. PRESENTING PERCY
Trainer: Pat Kelly. Official rating: 167. Odds: 4-1
Presenting Percy was hard to fault when landing the RSA Chase in 2018. He has since run just twice over fences
The 2017 Pertemps Hurdle winner excelled when switched to fences the following season and the form of his fluent RSA Chase win has stood up well. Last term was something of a write-off – he ran only twice and hurt himself when failiing to figure in the Cheltenham Gold Cup – but he has shaped as if retaining all his ability this term, running better than the bare form suggests in the Savills Chase last time. Has plenty going for him (read conclusion).
What they say: Philip Reynolds: “Percy ran very well in the John Durkan and I thought he jumped and travelled well in the Savills, but I’d like to have seen him see it out better. I came away disappointed. I’m not giving up on him though and all the more reason to go back."
9. LA BAGUE AU ROI
Trainer: Warren Greatrex. Official rating: 148. Odds: 25-1
The front-running mare was in the form of her life when landing the Flogas Novice Chase in game style (watch above) at this meeting last year, having previously beaten Topofthegame and Santini (at Kempton) and Lostintranslation (at Newbury). However, she’s not managed to get to the next level and looks vulnerable at this level, for all that her enthusiasm seems intact and that the return to 3m will suit
The new kid on the block, Chris’s Dream, adds intrigue but the top three in the betting – Kemboy, Delta Work and Presenting Percy – look the trio to focus on.
Delta Work showed an excellent attitude to prevail in a steadily-run Savills Chase last month, when Kemboy and Presenting Percy did not finish far behind.
How steady was the pace? Well, the winning time was 12 seconds slower than the year before, albeit the ground was riding a bit slower. Revealingly, from the second last to the line there was little more than a second in it.
The general concensus afterwards was that Kemboy was the one to take out of the race because, unlike the other pair, he had not had a previous run this season. However, he was better-positioned than the other pair given the way was run and Paul Townend did not exactly treat him with kid gloves in the closing stages – suggesting he had no doubts about this fitness.
Enjoy a walk down Memory Lane and recall great renewals of the Irish Gold Cup
Kemboy’s tendency to jump right was also quite pronounced and, in general, there is still room for improvement in his leaping. Also, he is likely to have competition for the lead, especially with La Bague Roi travelling over from Britain.
I fancy Delta Work will beat Kemboy again, but whether he will be able to repel Presenting Percy is another matter.
As usual, Presenting Percy was held up in rear in the Savills Chase and, with the front-runners having plenty of petrol left in their tanks at the finish, was left swimming against the tide.
He still half-threatened to make a meaningful challenge at the final fence but Davy Russell seemed at pains to give him an easier race as possible (it was Presenting Percy’s first run over fences since his mishap at Cheltenham) and did not lift his whip once.
Presenting Percy is a thorough stayer and would have been better served by a stronger gallop and softer ground. He should get both on Sunday and his owner also hinted on Tuesday that different tactics may be employed, which makes sense as there is nothing about his running style that indictes he needs anchoring in rear. He can bounce back with a bang.
1. PRESENTING PERCY. 2. DELTA WORK. 3. KEMBOY.
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