Robbie Power has made the right decision with Sizing John
Whether the Cheltenham Gold Cup will go ahead at all on March 16th seems a worthy question amid this arctic freeze, but conditions are expected to improve ahead of the blue riband of National Hunt Horse Racing. I doubt we will find ourselves in a situation such as 1978, when the Gold Cup was called off due to snow, before Midnight Court won a rescheduled race at a later date. The Foot and Mouth crisis on 2001 scuppered the whole thing altogether, which was a complete disaster. Those punters who have booked their travel and that are holding ante post betting vouchers for the extravaganza in two weeks time will be hoping the weather Gods start smiling.
Adding excitement to the mix is the very real prospect that Ireland's rugby players will be chasing the Grand Slam at Twickenham on St Patrick's Day, the perfect denouement to what should be a great Cheltenham week. Irish fortunes at the Olympics of the sport have never been better, with the one sided tally of 19 winners from 28 races in 2017 causing some embarrassment for the hosts. The biggest of those was 'Sizing John', the triple Gold Cup winner from the Jessica Harrington stable in Moone, County Kildare.
'Sizing John' was brilliant on his reappearance in the John Durkan Memorial Chase before disappointing in Leopardstown's Christmas Chase. It is acknowledged that the latter race may have come too soon for the chaser, and he's been kept fresh for Cheltenham. Stablemate and last year's Irish Grand National winner 'Our Duke' also comes into serious reckoning, but jockey Robbie Power has decided to stick with 'Sizing John'. It makes sense. So many horses have flattered to deceive when it comes to the Gold Cup picture and Cheltenham is a unique test. We know that 'Sizing John' is a good jumper and holds the necessary blend of speed and stamina to retain his title. Jessica's daughter Kate is on the record as saying that the horse is a stronger beast this season and what could be more important is Sizing John's well being on the day rather than the opposition.
We don't know if favourite 'Might Bite' will stay the extra quarter mile and despite his talent, he is very quirky. 'Native River' has always struck me as a horse that always finds one too good in this grade, while 'Our Duke' can make the odd error and it's an unknown if he will take to the course. 'Road to Respect' has done nothing wrong, but the distance is once again a question mark. And 'Killultagh Vic' is another very talented animal that has a habit of making jumping mistakes. The 6/1 available about 'Sizing John' right now may be a very good each way bet to nothing.