Cheltenham Festival 2018: Sizing John working well ahead of bid to repeat Gold Cup glory

harrington horses

Jessica Harrington’s string workout ahead of the Cheltenham Festival. (Pic: Courtesy of Jockey Club Racecourses).

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SIZING JOHN is reported to be working well ahead of his bid to secure back to back wins in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup on March 16.

The eight-year-old could not have been more impressive on his reappearance in the two and a half mile, Grade 1, John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown on December 10, when he beat Djakadam by seven lengths.

Yet Jessica Harrington’s charge has a point to prove after suffering a shock defeat 18 days later when seventh in the three mile, Grade 1, Leopardstown Christmas Chase and has been off the track since then.

Speaking at a media visit organised by Cheltenham Racecourse earlier this week, Harrington said: “We had a hiccup with Sizing John over Christmas, but since then we have been chugging along and haven’t done anything very quickly.

“You saw him go up the gallop this morning. He tanked away and all he wanted to do was get past Supasundae. His weight is coming down towards the racing weight we like him at, especially this week as he did a bit more, and we have still got another two weeks to go on Friday.

“He may exercise at Leopardstown, all being well, either after racing on Monday or on Tuesday morning. He might jump a couple of fences there or we will gallop him on the Flat. We will see what the weather does as the reason we worked him yesterday is because we aren’t sure what is happening for the rest of the week.

“All being well, we are on song with him and the only thing we can do is get him there in one piece and hope for the best. But he seems to be in good form – he is shaking his head and doing his little bits and pieces.

“He overheated a bit at Leopardstown. Was that a slight tying up episode? I don’t know as they never really found a reason. He has been fine since. We let him right down afterwards and then built him back up again.

“The race probably came a bit soon after the John Durkan, while he and Djakadam maybe had a harder race than any of us realised. It is one of those things. We started off the season great and then this scuppered things, but if it was all plain sailing, it would be much too easy.

“Once that had happened at Christmas, we were never going to run him again before Cheltenham because it would have been very rushed to get him to Leopardstown for the Irish Gold Cup.

“We have not really put the gun to his head properly. He did a good breeze yesterday and did one there this morning. He will do one racecourse gallop and if he does it all on the bridle, I will be very happy. I am not going to put too much pressure on him because I want him on the day, not the day before. I do not want to be leaving anything behind.

“Sizing John and Our Duke [stablemate and 2017 Irish Grand National winner] are two strong horses who stay very well. It is probably an open Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup, as it was last year, but it will be a very competitive race if all the horses turn up. The one who has not blotted his copybook this year is Might Bite. He looks the young, improving horse. You have got Edwulf there; he put up a good performance at Leopardstown. There are a lot of horses in there with a chance and it will depend on who performs on the day.”

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