Punchestown: Sizing John completes Gold Cup treble in thriller
Jessica Harrington’s star adds to Cheltenham and Leopardstown successes to beat Djakadam and Coneygree
Robbie Power on board Sizing John (right) lands over the last behind Djakadam (centre) and Coneygree (left) before going on to win the Coral Punchestown Gold Cup. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Sizing John came out on top after a pulsating climax to the Coral Punchestown Gold Cup to complete the Treble Crown after last month’s win in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and success at Leopardstown in the Irish Gold Cup back in February .
Jessica Harrington’s star was the 9-10 favourite to follow up on home turf and did so in the most dramatic style in the hands of Robbie Power.
The Mark Bradstock-trained Coneygree, making just his third appearance since winning at Cheltenham two years ago, took the field along for much of the extended three-mile journey and he remained in front rounding the home turn.
Djakadam and Sizing John cruised up ominously, but Coneygree rallied valiantly to set up a grandstand finish despite having made a mistake at the second-last.
There was little to choose between the three jumping the final fence, but eventual runner-up Djakadam and Sizing John asserted soon after and it was the latter who won the battle by a short head.
Power said: “There was no hiding place out there. I was never that happy. I was off the bridle and he felt a bit flat, to tell you the truth.
“Fair play to the horse. He’s only a seven-year-old and he had to dig deep. I was all out, but he’s a very good horse.”
Harrington said: “It was a proper race and they went a helluva gallop from flag-fall.
“You have to jump and gallop in that race and Robbie wasn’t that happy with him. It was his fifth race since Christmas and it probably just told.
“All the way around I thought he was not going as well as he was at Cheltenham but he showed some guts.
“Everything was going against him – he’s also pulled off a front shoe – but he put his head down and battled.
“It’s very hard to win a Gold Cup and come here but he did it.
“Robbie gave him a great ride and is riding out of his skin. He sees the strides at the fences, he has great faith in the horse and he instils confidence into the horse.
“He’s going on his holidays now. He’s only seven and we’ll see where we go next season.”
Bradstock was unsurprisingly pround of Coneygree.
He said: “He’s a pretty special horse. It was wonderful. He pecked on landing at the second-last which, having had a long time off, you don’t need that.
“He’s got a very deceptive gallop. As long as he’s sound (on Thursday) I’ll be even happier.”
Champagne Classic provided Gordon Elliott with a first Grade One victory at this year’s Punchestown Festival when he landed in the Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle.
Title-chasing Elliott had suffered a frustrating opening afternoon on Tuesday, with reigning champion Willie Mullins significantly closing the gap.
The Gigginstown House Stud-owned Champagne Classic won the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Hurdle at Cheltenham last month, but was a 14-1 shot stepped up to the highest level back on home turf.
Monalee cut out much of the running, closely pursued by Tin Soldier, with Bryan Cooper just in behind aboard Champagne Classic.
Champagne Classic hit the front in the straight, but briefly looked a sitting duck when the patiently-ridden 2-1 favourite Penhill, winner of the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham, loomed up under Ruby Walsh.
However, he was unable to get on terms with the victorious six-year-old, who winged the final flight to seal an important victory by two and a quarter lengths.
Penhill and Tin Soldier finished second and third for the Mullins team.
Cooper said: “He did it well. The better ground has brought the best out of him.
“He was a good winner at the Cheltenham Festival and he’s stepped up in into Grade One level.
“He’s a fantastic horse.”
Elliott said: “I’m surprised he won but he’s a nice horse and he’s going to be a nice chaser.“He keeps trying and he seems to like that better ground.”
Fayonagh comfortably followed up her Cheltenham Festival triumph with an all-the-way success in the Racing Post Champion INH Flat Race.
After having missed the break, Gordon Elliott’s mare came from last to first to win the Champion Bumper last month, but Jamie Codd sent her straight to the front this time and she was always in control.
The heavily-backed 11-8 favourite kicked off the turn and came home five and a half lengths clear of Paloma Blue. Elliott also saddled the third home, Poli Roi.
Codd said: “They say when you have a good mare, you should keep hold of her.
“She’s a real gem. She likes to do her own thing and I’m just delighted to be part of the whole thing. It’s special.”
C’est Jersey dominated from the front when he led home a one-two for Willie Mullins in the Louis Fitzgerald Hotel Hurdle.
Battleford was the 6-4 favourite in the hands of Ruby Walsh, but, not for the first time, his jumping was far from foot-perfect.
C’est Jersey, on the other hand, hurdled fluently in the first-time blinkers and some strong galloping at the head of affairs put the pressure on his opponents.
Battleford got rolling in the straight, but C’est Jersey was away and gone and passed the post three and a half lengths to the good under Paul Townend.
Burgas was best of the rest in third.
“He was a bit keen early on, but we always thought he’d stay well,” said the winning rider.
Mullins said: “This time last year Ruby was riding him [C’est Jersey] at home and thought he was a very decent horse.
“He’s disappointed us all year and the other morning David Casey rode him and he flew in a gallop, and we decided to put blinkers on him as he’s well able to do it but wasn’t doing it on the racetrack – it made a huge difference to him.
“Battleford didn’t hurdle fast enough at the pace they were going.
“They are two nice staying chasers for next season.”
Magic Of Light got up in the shadow of the post to land the Martinstown Opportunity Series Final Handicap Hurdle.
Jessica Harrington’s mare was an 11-1 chance for the fiercely competitive contest that opened the second day of the Festival and was always in a nice position against the rail in the hands of Ryan Treacy.
Blast Of Koeman looked home and hosed after the final flight, but Magic Of Light came home strongly and won the day by a head.
A Rated was a close-up third, with well-supported 5-1 favourite Fridaynightlights fourth.
Treacy said: “Everyone wanted to be handy, but I knew I was in the right place all the way.
“I got a lovely run on the inside and I’m very privileged to be given this opportunity.”
Harrington said: “All my children thought I was mad running her as they all said she wanted soft ground
“I didn’t think she’d get in, but once she did we said we’d run her and it’s great for Ryan.
“He comes down and rides out for me one day a week, so I’m delighted for him to have a Punchestown winner.”
1st Magic Of Light 11-1
2nd Blast Of Koeman 13-2
3rd A Rated 16-1
4th Fridaynightlights 5-1
1st C’Est Jersey 7-1
2nd Battleford 6-4
3rd Burgas 10-1
1st Champagne Classic 14-1
2nd Penhill 2-1
3rd Tin Soldier 8-1
1st Sizing John 9-10
2nd Djakadam 5-2
3rd Coneygree 6-1
1st Fayonagh 11-8
2nd Paloma Blue 12-1