Sizing John A Golden First For Harrington

Posted March 18, 2017

Sizing John gave Irish trainer Jessica Harrington her first victory in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup with her first runner when coming home a clear-cut victor of jumping's blue riband prize.

But the horse looked nervous at the start and unseated Kelly after only two fences to the dismay of the jockey who was left punching the ground in frustration. Perhaps he could follow Special Tiara in finally winning his championship race after years of failure, thanks in part to all the injuries suffered by other star horses this season. I never seemed to have any stayers in the past.

There is a lot to like about Native River, but he also short enough in the market, and he does not have the proven class of Djakadam. He won the Welsh Grand National putting in a gutsy performance and has the guts and stamina to get round the track, and has a cracking jockey in Richard Johnson on board.

Every jockey dreams of winning the Gold Cup but at this stage of your life you don't think it's going to happen. But this is a big field including some unexposed types and there may again be something to beat him.

Meanwhile, Lizzie Kelly - the first woman to ride in a Gold Cup for decades - departed from Tea For Two at the second fence.

Despite his late charge, Mullins couldn't hold off Gordon Elliott in the race to be leading trainer at the Festival. Initially disappointing over fences, he came good to win a strong renewal of the National Hunt Chase at the last Festival, with Native River second.

After yesterday's return to form, it's no real surprise that the Ruby Walsh/Willie Mullins combination has been backed into favouritism overnight, with Djakadam now a general 3/1 shot.

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Minella Rocco is the new Randox Health Grand National favourite in places after finishing runner-up to Sizing John in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup. But Jonjo O'Neill's runners are peaking now and it would be no surprise to see a big effort from him with Noel Fehily aboard.

Following a successful first Cheltenham Gold Cup a year ago, Timico chose to invest in grass roots racing and became a new national sponsor of Point-to-Point amateur horse racing last October.

She said the industry had been saved by an "astronomical pay-out" by Sizing John's Gold Cup win with those above him in the Gold Cup betting, including favourite Djakadam who finished fourth, all well backed.

Early promise over fences, including when a wide-margin Grade One victor at Aintree two years ago.

"When he pulled him out on the second circuit, he began jumping well". Sizing John has gone from two miles at Christmas to three miles here.

"I'm not on cloud nine, I'm on cloud 109", she said.