Owner Philip Reynolds is excited to see Presenting Percy return to competitive action in the John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase on Sunday.
The Pat Kelly-trained eight-year-old looked every inch a Gold Cup horse in the making when claiming his second Cheltenham Festival success with a brilliant display in the 2018 RSA Chase.
And although last season did not go entirely to script, it is perhaps a measure of where he is held in the public’s affections that he was sent off favourite for the blue riband in March – despite lining up off the back of a solitary run over a hurdles in January.
Presenting Percy could only finish eighth at Prestbury Park, after which Reynolds revealed his pride and joy was suffering from a back problem and had bone bruising – but he is hopeful those problems are behind him.
“Percy is in good form and he’s done everything Pat has asked of him. I’m looking forward to seeing him run again,” said Reynolds.
“This time last year Percy was the 6-1 favourite for the Gold Cup and this year he’s 16-1, which is maybe a better reflection of where he should be. There’s less pressure, which isn’t a bad position to be in.”
Presenting Percy features in a nine-strong field, with the standard set by last year’s winner Min.
The four-time Grade One winner is one of four runners for Willie Mullins, with the champion trainer also saddling last season’s Arkle hero Duc Des Genievres, recent Down Royal scorer Real Steel and Voix Du Reve.
Reynolds added: “It’s a hot race. I didn’t expect Willie to declare as many as he has, but however many he’s running, Min is the one we all have to beat. We always expected Min to run here, so from that point of view not a lot has changed.
“We’re hoping Percy will run a good race, but until we get Sunday out of the way it’s difficult to make any plans.
“He’s in the Savills Chase at Christmas, but we might be looking at Ludlow rather than Leopardstown after this weekend!”
Paul Townend has unsurprisingly opted to partner Min, with the trainer’s son Patrick Mullins on Real Steel, Robbie Power aboard Duc Des Genievres and Brian Hayes booked to partner Voix Du Reve.
Assessing the chances of the quartet, Mullins junior said: “Min won the race last year and seems in very god form at home, so we’re hoping he can follow up.
“Real Steel has shown a preference for going right-handed, which means options are limited. He has the benefit of a run, which is obviously an advantage, and this will tell us whether he’s a proper Grade One horse or not.
“Voix Du Reve beat Real Steel at Fairyhouse in the spring, but this is his first run of the season and I think he might come on for it more than the others.
“Duc Des Genievres was beaten a long way on his first run of the season in Navan, but he always seems to take a run or two to find full fitness, so we’re hoping for an improved performance on Sunday.”
Gordon Elliott saddles last year’s runner-up Shattered Love, as well as Hardline.
Tony Martin’s Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Anibale Fly and Snow Falcon, from Noel Meade’s yard, complete the quality field.