Willie Mullins’ Kemboy, caught up in the Supreme syndicate scandal, makes his eagerly awaited return in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown on Saturday.
He developed into the best staying chaser last season, his sole defeat in five starts coming when unseating Danny Mullins in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
The seven-year-old faces off against Presenting Percy, the eight-year-old gelding who arguably has the biggest reputation of any horse currently in training.
Here’s the lowdown on the clash. We’ll have tips and analysis for the action across the Irish Sea including the Frank Ward Memorial Hurdle as well as in the UK, including action from Leicester, Lingfield and Newbury on ITV Racing.
Connections wasted no time sending the French recruit over fences after just four starts over hurdles in the 2016-17 season.
He was most progressive as a novice in 2018, off the mark at the second attempt with an impressive success at Fairyhouse in January. He followed that with an admirable fourth in the JLT at the Festival.
An early faller in the Irish National, he made amends with two ready victories later on in April. He landed a Group Three by eight-lengths before defying top weight in a fiercely competitive Grade A handicap at Punchestown.
Off the track for 202 days over summer, he returned to action with a facile win at Clonmel. It was next time out in the 2018 edition of the Savills Chase that he confirmed himself as a star.
Sent off 8/1, second choice of the Mullins’ pair, he put his older rivals to the sword from the front with an impressive success on good ground.
Once more ridden by Danny Mullins in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, he got no further than the first fence when unseating his jockey in a race eventually won by stablemate Al Boum Photo.
As he did the year previously, he followed a disappointing effort with two ready wins. He made all in taking style in the Aintree Bowl, putting nine-lengths between himself and Clan Des Obeaux.
It was an altogether tougher assignment that he faced in the Punchestown Gold Cup when pitched against stablemate Al Boum Photo. As rival after rival was unable to match his blistering pace, he showed a very game attitude under Ruby Walsh to claim a second successive Grade One victory.
The enigmatic Pat Kelly’s eight-year-old won four of his eight starts over hurdles in the 2016-17 season. The highlight of that campaign was a four-length victory in the Pertemps Final at the Cheltenham Festival.
He readily landed the odds on chase debut the following October. He was sent off favourite for five subsequent starts that year, scoring three further times.
An eleven-length victory in a marathon handicap at Fairyhouse was followed by a Grade Two success over hurdles at Gowran Park.
It was at that same venue that he bumped into the ill-fated Our Duke, beaten a length over two-miles-four. Returned to three-miles and to Prestbury Park, he re-found the winning thread with a monster performance in the 2018 RSA.
That victory earmarked him as a staying chaser to follow. He raced just twice the following season, landing the same Gowran hurdle contest in January before he was sent off favourite for the Gold Cup.
The unusual path charted to Cheltenham was ultimately to prove his undoing, The son of Sir Percy was never really travelling for the showpiece for which he was sent off 10/3 favourite. He eventually trailed home in eighth.
His recent return to action again left us wanting more. Facing an inadequate two-miles-four trip, he shaped with huge encouragement when finishing a three-length third to Min.
Kemboy is very much the proven performer in the race. He has eight pounds in hand, with Road To Respect and Presenting Percy both rated 169 to his 177.
He did nothing but improve last year, winning three Grade Ones including when beating four re-opposing rivals in this contest.
The delay in returning him to the racecourse has been well documented and rumours are abound that he might need the run today.
That seems fanciful though. He’s trained by none other than Willie Mullins and made light work of a Grade Two at Clonmel on his reappearance last year.
Presenting Percy will always be a shorter price than he should be. Given the mysterious nature of his yard and his hugely impressive performance in the RSA in 2018, he’s gained a huge reputation.
Judged on the form book however, he’s criminally underpriced today. Of course, he shaped with considerable promise on his return over an inadequate two-miles-four and will appreciate the return to three-miles today.
But it’s surely about time that he confirms all of his promise. He was hugely disappointing in the Gold Cup, his second defeat from two starts in graded open company over fences. Furthermore, the form of his yard is a huge concern. Often lauded as a genius, Pat Kelly has failed to have a winner with his last seventy-eight runners.
Kemboy is both the better chaser currently and in fact open to more improvement at the tender age of seven, a year younger than his market rival. Having taken all before him last term, Willie Mullins’ charge is more than capable of seeing off Pat Kelly’s stable star and gaining a seventh win from his last eight starts.