Harrington eyes Gowran as 'Duke' makes Gold Cup bid
Our Duke looks set to take in the Grade Two Red Mills Chase at Gowran Park on Saturday with trainer Jessica Harrington looking to get another run into last year's Irish Grand National winner ahead of a tilt at the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
The eight-year-old made his return after a disappointing run at Down Royal in November - he was subsequently treated for a kissing spine - in the Irish Gold Cup earlier this month when a creditable fourth behind shock winner Edwulf.
Harrington isn't convinced that the 2m4f trip will play to her charge's strengths but with few other suitable options available ahead of next month's trip to the Cotswolds, it's all systems go.
Regular pilot Robbie Power is confident that there is a lot more to come from Our Duke and retains faith that he is a live contender at 16/1 for the blue riband - won last season by Power and Harrington with Sizing John.
"Realistically it was Our Duke's first run of the year in the Irish Gold Cup after the non-event we had at Down Royal. He was a little bit ring-rusty at the start, but the further we went the better he got," he wrote in his BoyleSports blog.
"I still thought we had a big chance coming to the second-last but unfortunately he made a novicey mistake. Hopefully he'll improve an awful lot from the run, and the pleasing thing for me was when he picked up in the straight he stayed galloping away. That means there's plenty to look forward to with him this season."
Owned and bred by the Cooper family, Our Duke could have an interesting rival at the Kilkenny track this weekend in RSA fancy Presenting Percy - an impressive winner of the Galmoy Hurdle last month - but Pat Kelly's seven-year-old could yet be aimed at the Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse later this month.
Meanwhile, two-time winner Cue Card heads seven possible runners for Saturday's Grade 1 Betfair Ascot Chase with Irish hopes resting on the Eddie Harty-trained Gold Cup possible Coney Island, who was a cosy winner over the course and distance last month. Joe Tizzard, assistant trainer to his father Colin, expects their 12-year-old to make a bold bid but he faces a stiff test with stable-mate Bristol De Mai, Nicky Henderson's Top Notch and Ruth Jefferson's Waiting Patiently opposing.
"He had a nice break and schooled beautifully on Wednesday morning. He seems in the best form he has been all season. He really is in good nick. We haven't written him off by any stretch of the imagination, so we are looking forward to it," Tizzard said.
"Bristol De Mai was perhaps unbeatable at Haydock and it is a bit different when you go elsewhere. I still think he has got another big day in him. It looks a decent race, but he is still very good on his day."