Presenting Percy delivers in style despite handicap rise
There was a distinct sense of deja vu to the Pertemps Final as Davy Russell, Pat Kelly and owner Philip Reynolds teamed up for back-to-back victories in the race, with Presenting Percy running out an emphatic winner.
When the six-year-old's mark of 146 was revealed – 6lb above his Irish rating – it prompted trainer Kelly to state he was "like a raging bull" as a result of the treatment dished out by the British handicappers, although at no point did he rule the horse out, deferring to Reynolds' view on whether to contest the race, won last year by Mall Dini.
The manner in which Presenting Percy stormed to a three-and-three-quarter-length win over the Fergal O'Brien-trained Barney Dwan vindicated both the decision to run and the British handicappers' assessment.
Kelly said: “I’m very lucky. I’ve got a nice horse, a great owner and I get a free hand – I give all my horses time to improve.
"I don’t go ‘win, win, win, win’ – I don’t kill them. If they're second or third and have a clear round I’m happy as I know they’ll keep progressing.
"He’s a very nice horse and one going places. I can’t wait to go chasing with him next season – that will probably be it for this campaign."
Kelly trains just five horses at his County Galway base, highlighting the struggle to attract horses despite a notable festival success last year.
The trainer, also referencing a colleague's recent announcement that he is likely to quit the ranks this year, said: “You won’t get horses off anyone in Galway. You don’t make a living out of this. It’s a way of life, it’s not about money. You have only to look at what Adrian Maguire said the other day to see how hard it is to keep going.”
Russell, who was steering a winner at the festival for an impressive 12th successive year, confessed that the mark allotted to Presenting Percy had ultimately proven to be far from harsh.
The rider said: "I have to apologise to Phil Smith, he was completely right. Ninety nine times out of 100 the handicapper does a good job, but I thought he'd been harsh with this horse."
O'Brien was delighted with Barney Dwan, who led into the straight under Paddy Brennan but was soon collared by the winner, while Jury Duty finished two lengths back in third and The Tourard Man a further four and a half lengths behind in fourth.
O'Brien said: "Jumping two out I thought Barney Dwan would win but when I looked up and saw the noseband of Presenting Percy I knew that was that.
"We've no regrets, we came here after some good efforts and if you ran the race 20 more times it would still be the same result."
Tobefair, the fairytale horse who was seven from seven for Debra Hamer and had risen 62lb in the ratings, showed up well for a long way but started to retreat from the top of the hill and failed to feature in the finish.