Two of our racing gurus debate whether or not Sizing John is on for glory at this year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup.
No reason why he won’t stay the trip and, with question marks over his rivals, 14/1 looks fair value
Yes, says Tommy Lyons
Perversely, Sizing John’s success in the Irish Gold Cup, last Sunday at Leopardstown, has been used as a rod to beat Douvan’s connections, as their horse, a vastly superior animal to Sizing John over two miles, remains on course for the Champion Chase, rather than taking the same route as his old foe, who has now entered the reckoning for the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
But, it’s so much easier to take the risk of stepping into the unknown when you are consistently coming out on the wrong side of a battle.
And that’s what has happened with Sizing John, who was, once again, no match for Douvan when they met over two miles and a furlong in December.
Thereafter the decision was made to swerve future clashes with the unbeaten chaser by moving up in trip.
While Sizing John’s second try at two and a half miles, in the Kinloch Brae Chase at Thurles, was successful, it wasn’t entirely satisfactory as a showcase of his stamina, as there was a small field, and the final fence was omitted.
However, jockey Robbie Power was convinced all the horse does is stay, and so, it seems, was the horse’s trainer, Jessica Harrington, and owners Alan and Ann Potts.
An extra half-mile for the Irish Gold Cup was another leap in the dark but there wasn’t a lot to lose, and the decision paid off in spades when he landed the spoils in Sunday’s feature, over three miles plus.
The race wasn’t run at a breakneck, end-to-end gallop, and therefore wasn’t a thorough test of the horse’s stamina, but neither had the winner come to the end of his tether when he hit the line three parts of a length ahead of Empire Of Dirt.
In just three runs this season he has moved up almost a mile and, apparently, relished it. So, why not another quarter of a mile? No reason, really. Should he come up short at Cheltenham, I would suggest it will be ability and not stamina which is the primary reason.
He travels very well, is a terrific jumper, and that should allow him hold his position through much of the race at Cheltenham.
Of those now ahead of Sizing John in the ante-post book for the Gold Cup, Thistlecrack has the star potential which most of the entries lack, but he is just a novice, and we were served a reminder of that when he was narrowly defeated by the ill-fated Many Clouds, in the Cotswold Chase.
Hennessy and Welsh National winner Native River didn’t have to achieve much to win the three-runner Denman Chase last weekend.
He certainly has the stamina, but must prove he has the class to win a Gold Cup.
Had Djakadam turned up at Leopardstown last Sunday, we could have learned more, as he has been to the Cheltenham’s blue riband twice and come up a little shy.
He will go there fresh this time and as this is, potentially, a weaker race than last year, victory is not beyond the bounds of possibility. However, his record beyond three miles is not going to put fear in any of his rivals, nor should it deter supporters of other runners.
Cue Card must bounce back from a sub-par effort in the King George. Currently an 8-1 chance, he could be three times those odds if he doesn’t show signs of his best form in this weekend’s Ascot Chase.
Sure, the Gold Cup is another huge step up for Sizing John, but he is just a seven-year-old, and utterly unexposed over staying trips. With question marks surrounding so many of the other runners, if it is stamina which concerns you most regarding his chance, I would suggest backing him at 14-1 is a risk worth taking.
He’s on an upward curve, but on the balance of things Gold Cup glory is unlikely to come his way
No, says Darren Norris
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