Disappointment for connections of Sizing John
Well that's disappointing news a few days out from Cheltenham.
Sadly, last year's winner Sizing John will miss the 2018 staging of the Gold Cup at Prestbury Park.
Trainer Jessica Harrington says the 8-year old has a hairline fracture to his pelvis.
There was talk Sizing John could become the first horse to win back-to-back Gold Cups since Best Mate in 2003, but it's not to be.
Instead much like the likely doctors orders for punters who endure the full week in the Cotswolds, Sizing John has been prescribed two weeks’ box rest.
The problem was discovered after a routine canter with his regular jockey, Robbie Power, who something felt amiss, leading to the fateful examination later in the day.
After the rest trainer Jessica Harrington revealed Sizing John would then be “off on his holidays”.
The eight-year-old may well be able to return to the track next winter and Robbie Power is optimistic that will happen.
Heartbreaking to get the call from @Jessica_Racing this evening with the news the Sizing John won't return to challenge for his Gold Cup next week. We're all very disappointed but don't worry, he'll be back! 💪 @BoyleSports pic.twitter.com/1Au578UF0X— Robbie "Puppy" Power (@Robbie_Power_) March 8, 2018
Sizing John becomes the third consecutive Gold Cup winner who was then unfit to line up the following year, following Coneygree and Don Cossack.
Might Bite has hardened at the top of the betting for next Friday’s race and is now no bigger than 100-30, having been 4-1 a few days ago.
Native River is a 5-1 shot while Harrington can take consolation in still having the third-favourite in Our Duke at 7-1.
Power is now expected to ride Our Duke, displacing Noel Fehily, who might end up on one of JP McManus’s four Gold Cup entrants.
Ruby Walsh, meanwhile, got straight back in the winning habit with his first ride after an absence of almost four months, looking fit and effective as he guided Lareena to a five-length success at Thurles.
It was only a low-key maiden hurdle and he was on the favourite but there seems little doubt that Willie Mullins now has a healthy jockey to ride his fleet of fancied runners at Cheltenham.