Our Duke rated only 1lb inferior to stable companion Sizing John

Aidan O’Brien runs Cheveley Park 1-2 Roy Poly and Brava Anna in Nell Gwyn Stakes

Our Duke jumped to stardom in Easter Monday’s devastating Irish National rout but still has to play second-fiddle on official ratings to his Gold Cup-winning stable companion Sizing John.

Ireland’s senior National Hunt handicapper Noel O’Brien has hiked Our Duke by a stone for that 14-length National demolition-job at Fairyhouse. However his new mark of 167 is still 1lb shy of what Sizing John achieved for winning at Cheltenham.

The latter will attempt to maintain trainer Jessica Harrington’s remarkable recent run of success in next week’s €250,000 Coral Punchestown Gold Cup where a clash with the 2015 Gold Cup hero Coneygree is still on the cards.

However Our Duke is very much the new kid on the Gold Cup block and is rated a 10-1 shot for ‘Blue Riband’ glory in 2018.


“It was an unbelievable performance at Fairyhouse by a raw novice with just three runs under his belt over fences. But he turned what looked a very competitive race into a procession,” said O’Brien.

“In terms of novices he’s 1lb below Altior and he’s 1lb below Sizing John. But that 167 is pretty much a minimum rating. He dismissed hardened handicappers and he’s obviously a top staying chaser with enormous scope to get even better.

“If you look at his four races now he’s done it over a variety of distances. He was beaten by a specialist two-and-a half-miler in Disko at Leopardstown so he has gears but he also has limitless stamina,” O’Brien added.

The other noteworthy novice performance from the Easter festival was Yorkhill’s remarkable run in defeat in Sunday’s Ryanair Gold Cup.

Unpredictable talent

Willie Mullins’s star persistently jumped to his left, and almost ran out at the last fence, yet was still only narrowly defeated by Road To Respect. O’Brien has left Yorkhill on a mark of 164 but like many others he reckons the chestnut is a huge if unpredictable talent.

“Yorkhill could still be anything. He really does fall into that bracket,” he said. “Considering all the ground he gave away I’m not prepared to drop him. I’ve put Road To Respect up to 157.”

Sizing John is 11-8 favourite to win his fourth race in a row next Wednesday where he is set to renew rivalry with Djakadam and could also clash with Coneygree.

The injury-plagued English star has run only once in the last 18 months when beaten by Cue Card at Haydock in November. However his jockey Nico De Boinville is eagerly anticipating competing against Sizing John next week.

“It’s looking good and if we get him back to his best I’m really looking forward to the clash with Sizing John. It’s all good news coming from the Bradstocks and he goes there fresh and well,” said the English rider.

“He definitely wants a bit of rain but he excels in his jumping and travels so well. I’ve always wanted to come to Ireland with a good horse,” he added.

Aidan O’Brien is travelling the other way across the Irish Sea on Wednesday with the first and second from last season’s Cheveley Park Stakes, Roly Poly and Brave Anna, lining up in the Nell Gwyn Stakes at Newmarket.

The traditional 1,000 Guineas trial also includes the French hope Pamplemousse and the ex-John Oxx trained Sea Of Love who is set for her first start for William Haggas.

O’Brien will also be represented on the Newmarket card by Whitecliffsofdover who lines up for the European Free Handicap. The colt finished his juvenile campaign with a Group One1 thirdspot in the Prix Jean Luc Lagadere behind National Defence at Chantilly.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column