The centrepiece of the Christmas Festival at Leopardstown is the 3m Grade 1 Savills Chase on Saturday (15:10). Last year’s winner Kemboy has leading claims of retaining his crown.
Trained by Willie Mullins, this seven-year-old landed four of his five starts last season.
After asserting well to take the Grade 2 Clonmel Oil Chase on reappearance, Kemboy followed-up in this 12 months ago. He was held-up in midfield, but made rapid headway to lead approaching the eighth.
Kemboy then turned away all challengers, including many who re-oppose, and stayed on strongly to score by 7 1/2 lengths from Monalee.
On that form, he has nothing to fear from the runner-up, third home Road To Respect, fourth Bellshill and Balko Des Flos who finished down the Savills Chase field.
Kemboy was thus a leading fancy for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, but got no further than the first fence. He took a bad step on landing and unseated his rider.
However, that luckless run was more than compensated for by subsequent victories in the Grade 1 Betway Bowl at Aintree and Punchestown Gold Cup.
Kemboy made all on Merseyside and was value for more than the nine-length winning margin over dual King George VI Chase hero Clan Des Obeaux.
He then lowered the colours of Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Al Boum Photo at Punchestown. Long-serving Mullins stable jockey Ruby Walsh retired after passing the post on Kemboy.
Those exploits have earned the son of Voix Du Nord an official rating of 177 – the highest in the Savills Chase line-up this year.
The only negative is he hasn’t had the benefit of a run before defending his crown. However, Kemboy has leading form claims and that’s why he is 2/1 with Betfred to retain his title.
Presenting Percy out for Cheltenham compensation
Shrewd trainer Pat Kelly steps his stable star Presenting Percy back up in trip after a good run when third in the John Durkan at Punchestown on reappearance.
Connections are seeking compensation after a luckless campaign last term.
Presenting Percy was a leading Cheltenham Gold Cup hope on his novice chase form, but couldn’t find the soft ground he relished last winter.
The eight-year-old did retain his Galmoy Hurdle crown at Gowran Park, but that was his only run before the Festival in March.
He was sent off favourite for Gold Cup glory at Cheltenham, but didn’t jump with his usual fluency and never travelled at any stage.
Something was clearly amiss with Presenting Percy and jockey Davy Russell reported his saddle slipped.
Worse still he was found to be lame when examined by vets after the blue riband event of steeplechasing.
It was very disappointing, but the way Presenting Percy shaped over an inadequate trip in the John Durkan when beaten about three lengths by Min is encouraging.
The Savills Chase is the increased test of stamina he and some others who contested that Punchestown Grade 1 earlier this month want.
With just seven chase starts under his belt, Presenting Percy is still open to further progress over fences. Now back up in trip, he rates an obvious danger to Kemboy.
Dual Cheltenham Festival scorer Presenting Percy is 7/2 with William Hill to resume winning ways in a typically competitive renewal.
Delta Work may be pick of Gigginstown trio
Three of the nine Savills Chase runners represent the mighty Gigginstown House Stud.
Those powerful owners have won four of the last five renewals, including with Road To Respect two years ago.
However, the dual Down Royal Champion Chase hero has something to find with Kemboy on previous meetings.
Despite the form being advertised by Clan Des Obeaux in the King George, Gordon Elliott’s Delta Work is expected to come on for his first run.
As a six-year-old, he open to more progress over fences than Road To Respect. Delta Work had a fine novice chase campaign last season and has won four of his six starts in this sphere.
He won his first three outings, and they include the Grade 1 Drinmore at Fairyhouse and over course and distance at the Christmas Festival 12 months ago.
Delta Work was also far from disgraced when a fine third to Topofthegame in the RSA Chase and beaten by 2 1/4 lengths.
This son of Network resumed winning ways in the 3m Champion Novice Chase at Punchestown when bolting up by 12 lengths from Discorama.
Although beaten 16 lengths by Road To Respect at Down Royal on reappearance, that run was too bad to be true.
Elliott has talked up Delta Work as stripping fitter for that outing. Given Road To Respect is much more exposed over fences, it would be no surprise if the form was reversed.
Delta Work certainly appeals more at 6/1 with Unibet for the Savills Chase than Balko Des Flos, who is on an eight-race losing run.
Anibale Fly each-way value in Savills Chase
Another of Ireland’s leading owners, JP McManus, last won this in 2011.
His sole representative in this year’s renewal is Anibale Fly and he’s another who will be suited by soft ground and an increased stamina test.
The nine-year-old has placed in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and Grand National in each of the last two seasons.
Anibale Fly is also a course and distance winner after landing the Paddy Power Chase in handicap company here two years ago.
Trained by Tony Martin – another shrewd Irish handler – this Assessor gelding is often built up to a spring campaign.
Anibale Fly usually needs his first run and is sure to strip much fitter for the inadequate trip of the John Durkan when an eased last of six at Punchestown.
On the pick of his form, this thorough stayer is overpriced at 25/1 with BetVictor in this and good each-way value to make the frame.
Anibale Fly is preferred to Red Mills Chase conqueror Monalee despite in-form Rachael Blackmore once again taking the ride.
Trained by Henry De Bromhead, the eight-year-old was behind Presenting Percy in the RSA Chase a novice.
Although runner-up in the Savills Chase 12 months ago, Monalee is arguably in a deeper race this year.
He also improved for his first couple of runs to hold Anibale Fly at Gowran Park. That was a Grade 2 contest, however, and Monalee has been found wanting at the highest level in open company.
At the odds on offer, then, Anibale Fly gets the each-way nod in a Savills Chase renewal where Kemboy could stamp his authority on the Irish staying steeplechase scene.