Percy all present and correct after demanding festival schedule
RSA Insurance Novices' Chase (Grade 1) | 3m80y | 5yo+ | ITV/RUK
You cannot level the claim that he has ducked the big challenges on the way to Cheltenham at Presenting Percy.
From hurdles to fences, at distances from two and a half miles to three miles five furlongs, handicaps to graded races, the versatile Presenting Percy has tried it all.
Unconventional it may be but the winner of two out of four chases had already done enough to showcase his RSA credentials before giving Our Duke a race in the Red Mills Chase, which the Irish Grand National winner and Gold Cup hope won by a length.
Connections had shirked an easier opportunity against novices to take on Our Duke, and neither owner Philip Reynolds nor trainer Pat Kelly expect that head-to-head to have impacted on his Cheltenham performance.
Reynolds said: "I thought it was a very good effort when he ran second to Our Duke in the Red Mills Chase.
"He came out of the race very well and Pat is very happy with him. We'd prefer less testing ground for him as he's probably better on better ground, but he has plenty of winning form on heavy."
Is RSA right race for Davy's other lad?
In tandem for the first time at Leopardstown in February the new partnership clicked immediately as Monalee atoned for a Christmas fall to land the Grade 1 Flogas Novice Chase by three-quarters of a length.
Monalee's two victories over fences have been at two and a half miles and two miles five furlongs, but trainer Henry de Bromhead has always regarded the RSA a more suitable target than the shorter JLT Novices' Chase, the horse having finished runner-up in last year's Albert Bartlett.
"He's in great form and I think we've made the correct call to go for the RSA rather than the JLT," said the trainer.
"The JLT is not even two and a half miles and he needed every yard of the trip last time at Leopardstown. It's a good race but I'd like to think he goes there with a decent chance."
Can Frost and Nicholls bet on Black once more?
Bryony Frost will attempt to take an extraordinary season to even more extraordinary heights when she and Black Corton bid for win number eight together.
The pair have become inseparable since Frost, winner of the Foxhunter last year as an amateur, steered him to their first success together at Worcester last July.
They have suffered only one defeat since as they have enjoyed a prolific association that has included wins in the Feltham Novices' Chase at Kempton and Reynoldstown Novices' Chase at Ascot, and they have two wins at Cheltenham.
"I think he's in the form of his life but this is another step up. He's been round Cheltenham twice and won twice, which stands him in good stead.
"Often there are times he looks beaten but he keeps winning. He's very strong from the last to the line, but has to raise his game again."
What they say
Willie Mullins, trainer of Al Boum Photo and Bonbon Au Miel
Al Boum Photo is a horse we always thought would be up to winning a Grade 1 staying chase. His form is quite solid and hopefully he'll go close in the RSA in which Bonbon Au Miel, who impressed me when winning at Navan, will relish the ground and the trip and could be very much involved.
Richard Hobson, trainer of Allysson Monterg
He's a very good horse and I had to make my mind up between this and the JLT. Proper wet, heavy ground is what he wants and I hope it won’t have dried out too much.
Nigel Twiston-Davies, trainer of Ballyoptic
On his form with Black Corton he should be half the price he is. I'm not saying he should beat the Irish but he ought to be bang there. A blunder at the last cost him when they met in November and I think he has a good chance.
Gordon Elliott, trainer of Dounikos
He'll love the ground. Maybe a few of his rivals might be classier but he's in very good form and should run a good race.
Joe Tizzard, assistant to Colin Tizzard, trainer of Elegant Escape
He has strong form, especially on his Newbury run where he beat Black Corton, and at Kempton where the track didn't suit him. He had a confidence booster last time and should handle the conditions.
Curiously . . .
Leighton Aspell has won two Grand Nationals but of all the jockeys in action at Cheltenham this week he perhaps would crave a winner more than anyone, having had 53 festival rides without success. He has two chances to break the hoodoo, starting with Full Irish here, and he then rides The Organist in the following Coral Cup.
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