Sizing John ruled out of defence of Cheltenham Gold Cup

Jessica Harrington says hairline fracture of pelvis found after morning canter

Sizing John, pictured here with  Kate Harrington, will not defend next week’s Cheltenham Gold Cup.  Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Sizing John, pictured here with Kate Harrington, will not defend next week’s Cheltenham Gold Cup. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

The reigning Cheltenham Gold Cup champion Sizing John will miss next week’s festival because of injury.

Irish racing’s reigning ‘Horse of the Year’ was ruled out of a Gold Cup title defence by his trainer Jessica Harrington on Thursday evening. Harrington will still be represented in next week’s ‘Blue Riband’ by Our Duke.

“It is with a heavy heart I have to report that Sizing John will miss the Cheltenham Gold Cup. He cantered as normal this morning and during routine checks this afternoon was found to be sore behind.

“I have had our vet, Mark McRedmond, come and check him over. He has found a hairline non-displaced fracture of his pelvis. He will have box rest for two weeks and then rescanned with a view of starting walking exercise.

“This is a massive blow for the Potts family [owners] and for all our team here at Commonstown,” Harrington reported through a bookmaker’s blog.

Sizing John had been provisionally pencilled in to school over fences after racing at Leopardstown on Friday but has instead become the most high-profile casualty on the always nerve-racking countdown to next week’s festival.

Sizing John had been second favourite to become the first horse since Best Mate to successfully defend the Gold Cup crown but his defection saw bookmakers cut Might Bite to 3-1 market leader.

Our Duke was also cut in the betting and is 13-2 with one firm. Jockey Robbie Power, who had been due to ride Sizing John, will now switch to Our Duke.

The blow to the Irish challenge for Cheltenham came on the back of Ruby Walsh’s successful return to action at Thurles earlier in the day.

The champion jockey, out of action since November when breaking his leg, won on the 11-8 favourite Lareena for trainer Willie Mullins.

Sizing John won’t be at Leopardstown on Friday but Mullins could be among a number of leading trainers taking the opportunity to gallop Cheltenham horses there after racing.

“We’re very conscious that trainers have been snowed in for the past week and so we’ve presented them with an opportunity to use the facilities here,” said Leopardstown’s chief executive, Pat Keogh, on Thursday.

Joseph O’Brien is one of the leading trainers who will work horses after a card which sees the former Champion Hurdle winner, Jezki, line up against Karalee in the opener.

The 2014 Cheltenham hero is Barry Geraghty’s sole ride of the day and even though he looks a light of former years Jezki still looks good enough for this task.

Davy Russell, has two spins on the card, including topweight Jetstream Jack in the featured €50,000 TRI handicap chase.

Classic considerations rather than Cheltenham will be the focus of attention at Dundalk on Friday night where Aidan O’Brien’s Breeders’ Cup winner Mendelssohn goes on trial for the Kentucky Derby.

The Scat Daddy colt is 20-1 in some ante-post lists for the ‘Run For The Roses’ which has the Listed Patton Stakes as part of its ‘Road To Kentucky’ European series.

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