Our Duke confirmed for Gold Cup tilt
Our Duke got his season back on track with a battling defeat of Presenting Percy in a thrilling Red Mills Chase at Gowran Park.Having flopped on his Down Royal comeback, after he which he underwent an operation for a kissing spine, last season's Irish National hero performed with more credit in the Irish Gold Cup but was back in action less than two weeks later.
The Jessica Harrington-trained eight-year-old was always up with the pace but made a couple of errors, and leading novice Presenting Percy served it up to him from three out.
They jumped the last couple of obstacles as one and settled down for a real tussle to the line, but Our Duke (5-2) and Robbie Power pulled out that little bit more to prevail by a length from the even-money favourite.
Betfair cut Our Duke to 12-1 from 16-1 for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, and Harrington confirmed all roads now lead to the Festival. "I'm absolutely delighted," said Harrington. "He was good and Robert said he really only started jumping over the last three. He loses his concentration, but he was much sharper today. He only starts concentrating when he goes quick, and you can't go too quick on that ground.
"He has a very high cruising speed and he'll concentrate all right at Cheltenham. When he goes that gear quicker he's on the bridle and he can do anything. He wouldn't have liked that ground as it's horrible ground, and it's a good performance giving Presenting Percy seven pounds.
"All being well he'll go to the Gold Cup now and I won't have to do much with him, which is great. He had to come back and do that as you couldn't go without that race and he'll be sharper again."
Willie Mullins, meanwhile, would have no qualms about Douvan and Min taking each other on in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.
Speaking at Gowran Park, the champion trainer said he had no regrets about not running Douvan in the Red Mills Chase and he will now head straight to the Cheltenham Festival.
Min has been in terrific form this season, winning at the Dublin Racing Festival having lost a Grade One in the stewards' room over Christmas.
"I've no regrets about not running, although when I worked him on the gallop this morning myself and Ruby (Walsh) looked at each other and said 'should we be in Gowran' but we just said no, we were happy we'd made the right decision," Mullins said.
"If that (Red Mills) was anywhere else this weekend I wouldn't have entered him, it was just on the doorstep. A lot of people were wondering if it was because it was two and a half miles, but it hadn't even dawned on me it was two and a half miles, it wasn't three miles.
"I'd have no problem running Douvan over two and a half miles, it would be no bother to him."
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