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Townend can strike Gold with Kemboy

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Jockey Paul Townend. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Jockey Paul Townend. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Jockey Paul Townend. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

On only three occasions, from 33 previous instalments of the €250,000 Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup, has the victor gone on to take the spoils in Cheltenham's blue riband.

Jodami (1993), Imperial Call (1996) and Sizing John (2017) are the elite performers to have prevailed subsequently, though reigning Cheltenham champion Al Boum Photo was scheduled to participate in last year's Leopardstown renewal but was withdrawn on the day due to a change in the going.

Willie Mullins is a creature of habit when it comes to his Grade 1 operators and as one pipe-opener in Tramore's Savills Chase proved sufficient last year, by accident rather than design, there was never going to be a deviation from that route 12 months later.

There was a time when the top English chasers were regular participants and we do have La Bague Au Roi, a victor in the Flogas Novice Chase last year, back for more.

While Warren Greatrex believes his charge to be back to her best after some below-par runs, she isn't a genuine contender for championship honours among staying chasers.

Jodami was and he is one of only two horses, along with Florida Pearl, to be triumphant three seasons in a row. Florida Pearl came back and won a fourth time, one of 10 successes for Mullins.

Forgive 'n Forget, Nick The Brief, Carvill's Hill, The Listener and Neptune Collonges were subsequent cross-channel victors but given the current reluctance to make the trip now prior to Cheltenham, regardless of the bundles of euro on offer, it is unlikely that what is now an 11-year famine will end any time soon.

On ratings, Kemboy should land the honours with his neck in his chest but maths doesn't allow for the many variables that apply to jump racing. Ratings are opinion, based on a given performance on a given day, rather than the particular quirks of different tracks, conditions and demands.

That said, what we do know is that Kemboy likes it at Leopardstown and it was perhaps a bit surprising that he was ridden with restraint there by Paul Townend in the track's Savills Chase at Christmas - not to be confused with the Tramore iteration. That can perhaps be attributed to a long lay-off, however.

It would be surprising if Townend (pictured) doesn't let him stride on this time, as David Mullins did last year and Ruby Walsh repeated at Aintree and Punchestown to good effect after.

Delta Work arrived late off what was a slow early pace to land the odds in December but it was hard not to be drawn to Kemboy and Presenting Percy.

The latter's owner, Philip Reynolds, expressed disappointment in the aftermath of that race, and suggested last week that his charge might be ridden more prominently on this occasion.

However, the nine-year-old gelding is a true stayer and it seemed he just lacked the acceleration to respond when the revs were increased. Davy Russell didn't throw the kitchen sink at him when he knew the race wasn't to be won but he still finished less than four lengths behind Delta Work.

La Bague Au Roi, Cadmium and Kemboy may all ensure a faster lick this time but the stiffer Prestbury Park track has already proved to Presenting Percy's liking - he's won at the festival twice - and the extra two furlongs of the Gold Cup will be welcomed too.

Delta Work jumped markedly better than on debut when prevailing in the Savills but jockey Jack Kennedy reported him to be tiring a little in the final 50 yards, a slight worry given that it wasn't a slog by any means.

He is, however, a multiple Grade 1 winner as a novice as well and wasn't beaten that much in the RSA Chase. Having added to his Grade 1 tally at Christmas, and probably stripping fitter, he is a prime contender once more.

Bellshill has not shown any spark since just getting the better of a titanic battle with Road To Respect last year.

Chris's Dream is a very interesting contender, stepping right up in class since strolling to victory in the Troytown Chase at Navan last November. Henry de Bromhead believes that keeping the Robcour-owned son of Mahler fresh is the key and that there might be more to come.

It probably all points to Kemboy today but when it comes to Cheltenham, don't be surprised if it's Percy's day.

Sunday Indo Sport