All eyes will be on Presenting Percy at Gowran Park on Thursday as the ante-post favourite for the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup makes his seasonal reappearance in the John Mulhern Galmoy Hurdle.
Despite having been off the track since securing his second Cheltenham Festival success in the RSA Chase last March, Pat Kelly’s stable star is the general 4-1 market leader to win the biggest race of the week at Prestbury Park in six weeks’ time.
His return to action has been delayed by the unseasonably dry winter in Ireland, with Presenting Percy missing several engagements including the John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase and the Savills Chase at Leopardstown.
However, with the ground on the easy side at Gowran, he has been given the green light to make his belated comeback in a race he won 12 months ago – and champion jockey Davy Russell is relishing the opportunity to get back on board.
“I’m looking forward to it. I haven’t sat on him recently, but I’m sure Pat (Kelly) has him in good form,” said Russell.
“It’s a very competitive race, in fairness. We’ll see how we go.”
Presenting Percy is the star attraction in a 12-strong field, with six of his rivals trained by Willie Mullins.
The Closutton maestro saddles Bapaume (Paul Townend), Coquin Mans (Ruby Walsh), Bleu Berry (Brian Hayes), Killultagh Vic (David Mullins), Shaneshill (Danny Mullins) and Limini (Rachael Blackmore).
Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father, said: “Coquin Mans is actually rated a pound higher than Presenting Percy, so he’s a high-class horse on his day. He’s having his first run in a while, but hopefully he’ll run well.
“Bapaume is wrong at the weights, but does have the advantage of race fitness, while Killultagh Vic and Shaneshill need to improve on recent form.
“Bleu Berry has been off the track since running in France last June, so hopefully he’ll improve.
“Limini is interesting as she’s getting plenty of weight and she could run well for Rachael if she runs up to her best.”
Gordon Elliott runs Dortmund Park (Mark Enright), Don Poli (Jack Kennedy), Mala Beach (Denis O’Regan) and Prince Of Scars (Sean Flanagan).
The Joseph O’Brien-trained Darasso completes the line-up.