The Jessica Harrington-trained Sizing John was an impressive winner of the Grade One Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown on Sunday, enhancing his chances for Racing’s Blue Riband event the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup at the Cheltenham Festival next month.
The seven-year-old was having first start over three miles in the Grade One contest on Sunday but took the step up in distance in his stride under Robbie Power who was returning to race-riding following an injury in January.
The well-supported 100/30 chance jumped well throughout the contest and settled well in behind Don Poli and Road To Riches who set the early tempo. Harrington’s charge travelled with supreme authority throughout and after jumping the last, responded well to Power’s urgings to finish strongly and register victory by three-quarters of a length from the running-on Empire Of Dirt who snatched second from stable companion Don Poli.
Placed behind Douvan on seven occasions throughout his career, Sizing John won the Kinloch Brae at Thurles on his last outing over two miles and four furlongs and now looks likely to be aimed at the Cheltenham Gold Cup for which he is a 12/1 shot for the extended three miles and two furlongs contest. He is also 8/1 for the Ryanair Chase over two and a half-miles.
A delighted Harrington commented: “That was his first time over three miles and he jumped, travelled and did everything we had hoped he would.
“He jumped really well and he was just brilliant. Once he went past two and a half miles we knew he was into unknown territory, but we fully expected he would stay three miles and he did.
“Whether he will stay three miles two and a half furlongs at Cheltenham (in the Gold Cup) is another question and I’ll have to speak to Alan and Ann about it, but on good ground there’s a chance he will.”
Fortune grabs riches in Juvenile Hurdle
A star-studded card at Leopardstown included three other Grade One contests with Gordon Elliott’s Mega Fortune taking the first of them, the Spring Juvenile Hurdle by three and a half-lengths. Ridden by Davy Russell, the four-year-old turned the tables on Bapaume who he was behind at Leopardstown last time. Ridden by prominently by Russell in a change of tactics, the French-bred gelding always travelled well and despite a slight mistake at the last was always travelling the best and duly obliged at odds of 9/2.
Mega Fortune now looks likely to head for the JCB Triumph Hurdle, the first race on Gold Cup day at the Cheltenham Festival for which he is a general 6/1 shot.
Bacardys shows spirit in Deloitte
Willie Mullins got on the score-sheet in the next Grade One however when Bacardys who looked the stable’s third-string won the Deloitte Novice Hurdle under Patrick Mullins. The 12/1 chance was held up early on in the two miles and two furlong contest but made stealthy progress in the home straight to challenge for the lead and fend off the challenge of stable-mate Bunk Off Early, who looks the horse to take out of the race having pulled hard throughout the race, by three-quarters of a length. The well-backed favourite Saturnas also trained by Willie Mullins was bitterly disappointing finishing last of the ten runners with Ruby Walsh reporting that the horse made a noise. Bacardys is 16/1 for the two-miles Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, 8/1 for the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle over two miles and five furlongs and 8/1 for the three-miles Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle. Bunk Off Early looks a horse to take note of and he is 7/1 for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and 25/1 for the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle.
Disko gets the party started
The Noel Meade-trained Disko was an authoritative winner of the Grade One Flogas Novice Chase over an extended two-miles and five furlongs. Given a positive ride from the front under Sean Flanagan, the six-year-old imposing grey jumped superbly out of front and held off the sustained challenge of Our Duke to register a length and three-quarter success.
Meade has already target his gelding for the JLT Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival for which the son of Martaline is a 7/1 shot. The Gigginstown House Stud-owned horse is 12/1 for the RSA Chase and 16/1 for the JT McNamara National Hunt Challenge Cup.
Verdict – Bunk Off Early could peak for Cheltenham
All in all an interesting weekend of racing at Leopardstown. However, whether we have seen a horse who is going to trouble the judge at some of the best races at the Cheltenham Festival is debatable. Sizing John won well but is surely not good enough to win a Gold Cup. Mega Fortune and Bacardys will have a chance in the respective races they go for but with horses such as Charli Parcs, Defi Du Seuil, Neon Wolf and Finian’s Oscar likely to run in the Triumph and Neptune, the two horses respective races, it would be disappointing if they came out on top. Disko may be interesting in the JLT in what could be a weak renewal particularly if Yorkhill does not run as he jumped well after getting an easy lead.
However, for me two horses to take out of the race are a duo that actually got beat. The first one is Bunk Off Early who travelled impressively in the Deloitte but after pulling two hard early, was unable to fend off stable-mate Bacardys. He looks to have a cracking chance in the Supreme if learning to settle better.
Our Duke also ran a great race over an inadequate two miles and five-furlongs behind Disko in the Flogas. It looks likely that he will not be seen at this year’s Festival but in a year’s time, he could develop into a serious Gold Cup contender. He is only seven-years-old and looks to be improving at a rate of knots. He stays very well and could develop into a very smart staying chaser to follow in the years to follow.