Harrington points Our Duke at Gold Cup after Red Mills win

Robbie Power lands big-race double for trainer as Forge Meadow takes Trial Hurdle

Robbie Power and Our Duke won the Red Mills Chase at Gowran Park. File photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Robbie Power and Our Duke won the Red Mills Chase at Gowran Park. File photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

 

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.

She said: “I’m absolutely delighted. 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 7lb.

“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.”

Power said: “People were knocking his run in Leopardstown [Irish Gold Cup], but I was delighted with him and if he’d not made the mistake at the second-last there he’d had gone close.

“He made a couple of niggly mistakes today, because we were going so slow on the ground, but when we were stepping on the gas over the last three fences he was brilliant.

“He had to get a run [before the Gold Cup] and it was either here or the Bobbyjo next week. This was the obvious target and he’s not a slow horse, he’s got gears and he quickened up well. Fair play to the second horse, he’s a fair novice.

“I knew I needed to jump the last well and he did. He had to come here and win, it’s three weeks to the Gold Cup and that’s perfect.”

Forge Meadow gave Harrington and Power a big-race double with a resolute victory in the Red Mills Trial Hurdle.

The 7-4 chance put the pace to the race but looked beaten when headed by a rejuvenated Identity Thief.

He could not put it to bed, though, and Forge Meadow stuck her head down and answered every question asked of her by Power, getting back up by a length and a half.

The Grade Three event had been weakened by the defection of Mick Jazz, who was a non-runner due to a temperature.

Harrington said: “She was a bit slow jumping the second-last, but the other one didn’t get away from her and she winged the last.

“She puts her head down and loves galloping. She’ll go two and a half on better ground, but she won’t go to Cheltenham as she doesn’t travel. She went there last year and she melted.

“We’ll go to Fairyhouse and Punchestown with her. There is a mares’ Grade One at Punchestown and she could run in a Grade Two at Fairyhouse.

“She won a Listed race early on [this season] and then to come back after finishing second twice is fantastic. She is her own madam and has to go down to the gallops first at home. When she wants to go she has to go and you can’t wait.”

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