Sizing John to line up in Leopardstown’s Christmas Chase

Likely clash with Yorkhill shaping up as the Day Three festival highlight

Jessica Harrington has given her Gold Cup hero Sizing John the green light to try and secure another landmark victory in his trainer’s remarkable career.

The 2017 ‘Horse of the Year’ provided Harrington with a series of memorable firsts during his Gold Cup Triple Crown last season and will be the star turn when he lines up next week’s €150,000 Leopardstown Christmas Chase.

Harrington confirmed on Wednesday that Sizing John is on course to try and give her a first success in the race formerly known as the Lexus.

“He’s definitely running. I’m happy with everything now we’ve got the first run of the season out of the way. He won on heavy at Punchestown [John Durkan Chase] so I don’t mind what the ground will be like at Leopardstown,” she said.


However with a mostly dry forecast for the week ahead, the Leopardstown going is likely to improve to Sizing John’s liking ahead of the Christmas festival which starts on St Stephen’s Day.

The likely clash of Sizing John and Yorkhill is shaping as the Day Three festival highlight in a race with a luminous roll-of-honour during its 25-year history.

The English-trained pair of Best Mate (2003) and Bobs Worth (2013) are the only reigning Cheltenham Gold Cup winners to win it although Denman (2007) and Synchronised (2011) won before scoring in steeplechasing’s Blue Riband event later that season.

Harrington – last week selected The Irish Times/Sport Ireland Sportswoman of the Year – will try to emulate Henrietta Knight who trained Best Mate to his success in Leopardstown's most valuable Grade One festival prize.

Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown Stud team has the most options at their disposal to try and prevent the big chase turning into a straightforward face-off between Sizing John and Yorkhill.

Forfeit stage

The Ryanair boss has won the race for the last three years and two of those winners – Road To Riches (2014) and last year’s hero Outlander – are among a dozen horses he has among the 22 entries left in at the latest forfeit stage.

Outlander and another Leopardstown entry, Disko, also figure among ten hopefuls left in Tuesday’s King George VI Chase at Kempton. The Giggintown team have indicated Disko is a possible raider and the dual-Grade One winning grey has been cut to 12-1 for the King George in recent days.

Harrington also confirmed both Jezki and Supasundae will take on Apple’s Jade in next week’s Squared Financial Christmas Hurdle which has nine entries left in it.

However the 2015 Champion Hurdle winner Faugheen dominates an entry of just half a dozen for the final day festival highlight at Leopardstown, the €100,000 Ryanair Hurdle.

His trainer Willie Mullins has also left in Cilaos Emery while Gordon Elliott’s trio of hopefuls is headed by Campeador. The only potential interloper is the cross-channel entry, Ch’tibello.

Elliott has eight of the 18 entries left in the Friday week’s other Grade One feature, the Neville Hotels Novice Chase, although it is Henry De Bromhead’s exciting Monalee who is already trading as favourite.

Death Duty’s range of Christmas options includes the Neville Chase but has also been extended to include the Kauto Star Novices Chase at Kempton on St Stephen’s Day. His stable companion, Jury Duty, is also a possible for that Grade One.

Ahead of the glut of Christmas National Hunt action, Dundalk hosts its final back-to-back fixtures of 2017 on Thursday and Friday.

Champion jockey Colin Keane misses Thursday evening through suspension and Ger Lyons has turned instead to Keane's great rival Pat Smullen for the first race ride on Its Two O Clock.

A course and distance winner on his debut Lyons has opted to run the horse off a mark of 89 despite conceding over a stone to Khwarizmi who he beat by a couple of his lengths at the start of last month.

Lyons has two in the three year old maiden and champion apprentice Oisin Orr can have the edge here on Dhafeera who has race fitness on her side over Kiss The Wind.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

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