Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Sizing John makes his eagerly-awaited reappearance in the John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown on Sunday.
Since joining Jessica Harrington from Henry de Bromhead, his career reached new heights, stepping up from two miles, where he was behind Douvan on many occasions, to winning three Grade Ones over three miles at Leopardstown, Cheltenham and Punchestown.
Sizing John had been pencilled in for the first leg of the Jockey Club Chase Triple Crown at Haydock, but very testing ground ruled him out the Grade One contest, which was won in runaway fashion by Bristol De Mai.
“Obviously I’m delighted we didn’t go to Haydock now,” said Harington.
“In hindsight it looks a very good decision not to go there, he’d have had a very hard race first time out.
“I’m happy to go to Punchestown over two and a half miles for his first run of the year, that will suit, I think.
“It’s going to be a hot race, whatever happens, but as we’d been getting him ready for Haydock he should be fit enough.”
Robbie Power was on board for all those wins and not surprisingly is looking forward to the race.
Proper Grade One
“It will be a fantastic race, Disko, Djakadam, Sizing John — it will be a proper Grade One,” said Power.
“He has Grade One form over two miles, he was second to Douvan in an Arkle and he was second to Douvan over two miles last year as well, so two and a half will be an ideal trip for him anyway.
“I’d say the only thing is we are probably going to have heavy ground, but it is what it is and we’ll have to rock on.
“He was ready at Haydock and he’s a couple of weeks fitter than he would have been going to Haydock, so fingers crossed he’s ready to start and he’ll start on a good note.”
Djakadam has been a winning favourite the last two years, but has come up short at Cheltenham. There have been calls for him to stay over the intermediate trip, but Willie Mullins is not sure.
“He worked during the week, nothing like the piece Douvan did on Tuesday, but Djakadam isn’t a horse who shows off anyhow,” Mullins, who also runs Shaneshill, told At The Races.
“It’s a very hot race this year. He does come alive a bit around Punchestown and he’s fit and well.
“We’re going to run and see what happens. I don’t want to start planning things for Christmas.
“Usually after their first run, it’s plain to see where they should go after that.”
The De Bromhead-trained Sub Lieutenant, Gordon Elliott’s A Toi Phil and the veteran Carlingford Lough complete the field.