‘Punchestown here we come’

Punchestown here we come
17 March 2017; Robbie Power celebrates on the way to winning the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup Steeple Chase on Sizing John, ahead of Native River, with Richard Johnson, who finished second, and Djakadam, with Ruby Walsh up, who finished third, during the Cheltenham Racing Festival at Prestbury Park in Cheltenham, England. Photo by Cody Glenn/Sportsfile

Trainer Jessica Harrington has revealed that brilliant Cheltenham Gold Cup hero sizing John will have one more start this season in the 250,000 Grade 1 Coral Punchestown Gold Cup on Wednesday, April 26.

The seven-year-old scored in fantastic style at Cheltenham and Harrington is delighted that he will round off his campaign at her local course.

“Sizing John has come out of his Cheltenham race very well and we were obviously thrilled with how everything went,” said Harrington. “So we have decided that our next step is to go to the Coral Punchestown Gold Cup at the end of April.”

Sizing John, a seven-year-old by the British sire Midnight Legend, was Harrington’s first ever runner in the race. It was her second winner of the week, after also taking the Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle with Supasundae, and a tenth Festival success in total. She is the winning-most female trainer in Festival history.

Afterwards Harrington said: “I can’t believe it. He was absolutely amazing. His jumping, the way he travelled. He was absolutely fantastic. It’s unreal! It’s thanks to Robert (Power, jockey). He’s the one who said at Christmas, ‘he will stay’.”

“Sizing John has gone from two miles at Christmas to winning over three miles and two furlongs here. He jumped like a buck and it is his jumping that has got him there the whole way. He was amazing.”

Alan Potts, who moved Sizing John from Henry de Bromhead’s yard to Harrington in the autumn, said it was ‘unreal’ to win what ‘has always been our dream’. A fantastic clash is on the cards for the Coral Punchestown Gold Cup with the 2015 Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Coneygree, trained in England by Mark Bradstock, likely to travel over.

It was a record-breaking week for Ireland at the Cheltenham Festival with 19 winners and Sizing John is just one of many of those set to appear at the Punchestown Festival, alongside a sizeable raiding party from Britain.

Willie Mullins announced that the Punchestown Festival will be the aim for most of our Cheltenham runners and he is expected to have a string of star names on show. Among those set to appear at Punchestown are Un De Sceaux, a superb winner of the Ryanair Chase, who could step back to two miles for the Grade 1 BoyleSports Champion Chase on Tuesday, April 25. That race is likely to also be the target for Henry de Bromhead’s superb Queen Mother Champion Chase heroSpecial Tiara.

Nichols Canyon, winner of the Stayers Hurdle at Cheltenham, is being aimed by Mullins at the Grade 1 Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle at Punchestown on Thursday, April 27. The gutsy Lil Rockefeller, who finished second to Nichols Canyon at Cheltenham for trainer Neil King, could reoppose at Punchestown.

Further interest is set to be added to the 250,000 contest by last year’s winner One Track Mind, who trainer Warren Greatrex has kept fresh for a return visit to Punchestown. Yorkhill, who looked a Gold Cup horse of the future when winning the JLT Novices’ Chase, is also set to line up at Punchestown for Mullins as is Penhill, winner of the Grade 1 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Like Mullins, trainer Gordon Elliott saddled six winners at Cheltenham and many of those are on course for Punchestown including the brilliant mare Apple’s Jade, who captured the Grade 1 OLBG Mares’ Hurdle.

Mullins also plans to run Vroum Vroum Mag and Limini, who finished second and third at Cheltenham, at Punchestown. Further spice will be added to this year’s Punchestown Festival as Elliott, currently with a lead of around 360,000, bids to beat Willie Mullins to his first trainers’ title.

The Irish season finishes on the final day of the Festival, Saturday, April 29. Meanwhile, trainer Harry Fry is a big supporter of the Punchestown Festival and he is considering sending over Neon Wolf, who was beaten a head when a hot favourite for the Grade 1 Neptune Investment Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Fry has several other Punchestown possibles including exciting novice hurdler Minella Awards.

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