Presenting Percy has gone from progressive dual Cheltenham Festival winner to the comeback trail. Anyone who saw his 2018 RSA Chase victory at the premier British jumps meeting couldn’t be anything other than impressed with the then rapidly improving novice chaser.
What has been so refreshing about Presenting Percy throughout his career is the fact he’s brought success to a smaller Irish stable. Galway trainer Pat Kelly does not have a major operation like those in the Emerald Isle with luminary surnames such as De Bromhead, Elliott, Harrington, Mullins and O’Brien.
Even as thoroughbred racehorse pedigrees go, Presenting Percy is in the purple being by Dewhurst Stakes and Epsom Derby winner Sir Percy out of a Presenting mare. He shares a damsire with Hennessy and Cheltenham Gold Cup great Denman.
Little more than a handicapper as a novice hurdler and that’s not meant to be disparaging, Presenting Percy improved enough to land the 2017 Pertemps Final at the Festival. He has since won two runnings of the Grade 2 Galmoy Hurdle over three miles at Gowran Park on winter ground.
That demonstrates how stamina is what Presenting Percy is all about. He showed it in spades as a novice chaser when winning the Porterstown Handicap over the Irish Grand National course and distance at Fairyhouse by 11 lengths on just his third try over fences.
It boded well for the RSA – his sole Grade 1 career success – but little else has gone right with Presenting Percy since. Sent off favourite for the 2019 Gold Cup, he went to Cheltenham without another chase run under his belt.
Connections couldn’t find the softer surface and/or a stern stamina test they felt Presenting Percy needed to be seen to best effect. He could still gain compensation for flopping at last year’s Festival, though.
There were excuses for that disappointing run. Jumping hurdles and schooling over reconfigured fences was hardly ideal preparation for Presenting Percy’s first Cheltenham Gold Cup bid. At least en route to his second attempt, Kelly has got steeplechase races into him – albeit without winning.
How does the Presenting Percy form stack up against his rivals? He has something to find still on Delta Work and Kemboy on his last two runs before Cheltenham. That is also reflected in the betting with those horses shorter in the market than his best price of 14/1 with Paddy Power for the Gold Cup.
Supporters taking those odds are betting on Presenting Percy reproducing his RSA Chase form. He readily beat Monalee, twice a runner-up in the Grade 1 Savills Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas, and jumped subsequent Gold Cup hero Al Boum Photo literally off his feet.
That rival was well held when coming to grief two out in the RSA. Presenting Percy is still lightly-raced over fences with just nine starts in this sphere aged nine, but there are younger and unexposed racehorses against him taking aim at Cheltenham glory.
Any conversation about the Gold Cup will also involve dual King George VI Chase hero Clan Des Obeaux, for all the Festival showpiece is run over a very different track and a quarter-mile longer trip. Lostintanslation has claims too on his Betfair Chase victory at Haydock Park.
Presenting Percy won one so-called Gold Cup trial, but Santini has done likewise with Cotswold Chase success this season. All of these names are not only younger than him, but shorter prices in the betting.
However, recent form suggests he could be building up to something with Presenting Percy placing third twice in Grade 1 company this season. He will get the Gold Cup trip.
Since finishing lame and eighth at the Festival last year, Presenting Percy hasn’t got his head in front. That does not tell the full story, though. Distances of three miles and beyond are what he wants, yet he came third over an inadequate two-and-a-half miles in the John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown on reappearance.
Presenting Percy never troubled the winner Min, but to get within 3½ lengths of a much speedier type on his return after 268 days off and following injury in the Gold Cup was no disgrace. Bearing that in mind, it was probably asking a lot when turning him out again just 20 days later.
The Savills Chase – sponsored in years past by Lexus and Ericsson – is a prestigious race in its own right, however, and part of the Christmas Festival at Leopardstown. Presenting Percy finished fifth in that, but was just four lengths behind Delta Work.
Given the winner only scored by a head and had race fitness on his side, many observers felt those in-behind could come on for the run in a rematch. The Irish Gold Cup during the Dublin Racing Festival in early February saw many from Christmastime take their chances in Grade 1 company once again.
Delta Work not only confirmed the form with Kemboy, but Presenting Percy too. A slight mistake two out may have cost him, even though he got his nose in front in between the final two fences. Those younger rivals found more at the business end of the race.
What goes in Presenting Percy’s favour regarding Cheltenham is, despute Delta Work and Kemboy beating him twice at Leopardstown, those particular rivals have never won at the Festival. Course form cannot be underestimated around the undulations of Prestbury Park which, when fit, he has in the book.