Our Duke proves too tough for top novice Presenting Percy in thriller
Those hoping for a thriller between an established star and a potentially top-class novice in a strong renewal of the Red Mills Chase were not to be disappointed, with Our Duke bouncing right back to form with a length defeat of RSA Chase favourite Presenting Percy.
It was a victory that propelled the Jessica Harrington-trained eight-year-old back towards the head of the market for the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup, as Ladbrokes made him 6-1 co-second favourite with Sizing John (from 12) behind Might Bite, and most firms cutting him to between 8-1 and 10-1, with Betfair 12-1.
It could not be denied how impressive he was, especially considering the stop-start nature of his season.
Apart from ploughing through the fourth-last fence, his jumping was assured under Robbie Power. It was especially good when the pace really increased from the top of the straight, and from the final fence he asserted under pressure to win perhaps a shade cosily.
Harrington was unable to disguise her happiness with the performance and said: "He was much sharper today and Robert said he only really started jumping when the gun was put to his head over the last three.
"He would not have liked that ground today, it's horrible ground, but it's certainly a good performance to beat Presenting Percy giving him 7lb, plus he's not really a two-and-a-half-mile horse.
"He'll go for the Gold Cup now all being well and we won't have to do too much with in him until then, which is great. He really had to come back and do that, we couldn't have gone to Cheltenham without that."
Commenting on his jumping, Harrington added: "When he's not going quick he doesn't concentrate, but when they go a good gallop it makes the difference.
"He has a very high cruising speed, but when he's going just below that he is not concentrating. When he gets to Cheltenham he will definitely concentrate!"
Presenting Percy was eased by a couple of firms – to a best-priced 100-30 (from 3) – for the RSA Chase but owner Philip Reynolds was thrilled with the run.
He said: "He was very good, he got a bit tight to the last but we are thrilled to bits with him.
"It was a race full of quality, there were a lot of graded winners and us there as a little novice. He didn't do too badly did he? The fences you jump here are probably as close as you can get to Cheltenham in Ireland so that will have sharpened him up nicely for the RSA."
He added: "The long range forecast looks okay for good ground at Cheltenham and we're looking forward to it."
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