Jessica Harrington takes us through her team for the 2018 Cheltenham Festival including defending Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Sizing John.
Sizing John - Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup (Sky Bet odds: 6/1)
We had a bit of a hiccup over Christmas and since then we’ve been chugging along. You saw him go up there this morning and he tanked away, all we wanted to do was get past Supasundae. He’s coming down to the racing weight we like him at, especially this week now he’s done a bit more. We’ve still got another two weeks on Friday. He may go to Leopardstown all being well one day after racing or early Tuesday morning. He might jump a couple of fences there or I may just work him on the flat, we’ll just have to see what the weather does.
We worked him yesterday as we weren’t sure what was going to happen today and for the rest of the week, but all being well we’re on song with him and all we can do is get him there in one piece and hope for the best. He seems to be in good form, he’s shaking his head and doing his bits and pieces.
It covers a multitude of things (the term clinically abnormal, as he was found to be after his run at Leopardstown at Christmas). He overheated a bit, whether that was from tying up a bit I don’t know. As soon as we discovered it we let him right down and then started building him back up again. Once that had happened we were never going to run him again before Cheltenham as we’d have been very rushed to get him to Leopardstown to the Gold Cup.
I think it maybe came a bit soon after the John Durkan without realising it, maybe him and Djakadam had harder races in the Durkan than we realised. It was one of those things, we started off the season great and then this goes and scuppers things. But if it was all plain sailing it would be much too easy.
He’s good. We’ve not really put the gun to his head yet. He had a little breeze yesterday and then that this morning.
That is a complete non story (Robbie Power riding Sizing John). Robbie was contracted by Alan and Ann Potts to ride their horses and provided they both get there, he rides Sizing John. You all made a great big story of it, but there was never a story there.
Our Duke - Cheltenham Gold Cup (Sky Bet odds: 8/1)
Last year, when he won the Grade One at Leopardstown (he came into the Gold Cup reckoning). The owners said to me they didn’t want to go to Cheltenham last year, we’ll go for the Gold Cup next year, their decision, and then he went to Fairyhouse and won the Irish National.
He had a bad start to the season but we discovered his problem with the kissing spine and he came back there and looked good the other day so he’s in good order. They are two very big, good strong horses and they both stay very well.
He would never have run at Gowran had he not made the mistake at Leopardstown, as he would’ve had to have finished that race under pressure. He would’ve ended up having a hard race, but the fact he made the mistake and Robbie gave him the chance to recover meant he pinged the last and galloped the whole way to the line. In a way he didn’t have a hard race so the decision to go to Gowran was easy really as I knew he hadn’t had a hard race and I really needed him to run again.
He just needed to go and jump a bit quicker and he’s not had a lot of chases. He had four last year, three this year, so seven races in all. Most horses have seven races in one season, he’s had seven in two.
He decided to pull that one fence out of the way but when he’d done that he jumped the last three very well. I just think he lacks a little bit of concentration when they aren’t going quick enough. They went a good gallop in the Irish National, but when he gets into a good rhythm he has a high cruising speed and when he’s running below that he doesn’t concentrate.
He’s won around Leopardstown, left-handed, he won the Irish National, right-handed, and he went around Gowran which is a bit like Cheltenham in one way even though it’s the other way round as they go up and down hills there and he seemed to cope with that fine.
I think he does like good ground. He is by Oscar and they do like a bit of nice ground and he hated the ground the other day in Gowran.
On the Gold Cup opposition…
I hate every single one of them. Yet it is probably an open Gold Cup, they said last year it was an open Gold Cup as well, it’s going to be a very competitive race. The one that hasn’t blotted his copybook this year is Might Bite, he’s the younger improving horse, you’ve got Edwulf who put up a good performance in Leopardstown, you’ve got a lot of horses there with a chance and it just depends on who performs on the day.
Supasundae - Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle (Sky Bet odds: 7/2)
Supasundae does what Supasundae does. He’s always very laid back. Last year you had to kick and beat him to get him down to the gallop, everything was about making him doing it. This year, all of a sudden, he’s doing everything easily within himself, travelling much better in his races and he’s actually jumping much better.
Whether he’s just got confidence I’m not sure, but he’s a horse that wants good ground. As soon as spring is in the air it does suit him.
I was so cross with him at Christmas last year, he ran in a handicap hurdle and didn’t do anything so I ran him three days later at Punchestown and he won. Then he had two hard races in graded races, just purely as I knew I was going to go for the Coral Cup. I needed to get him jumping better than he had been.
He had four races between Christmas and Cheltenham, then the Coral Cup so when he went to Aintree he was a tired horse, he was almost off the bridle the whole way. So I hope he can reverse that form (with Yanworth).
He won’t have to make his running or be up there, he can be dropped in a little bit. He had to make the running at Christmas and was then upsides Faugheen last time, so if we just drop him in a bit it might suit him.
He doesn’t have any other entries and I ain’t going to supplement him for the Unibet Champion Hurdle. Buveur d’Air is a proper two-miler, Supasundae isn’t. Maybe I’ll be wrong and he’ll go over two miles at Punchestown, but I’m pretty certain he’ll stay in the Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle. I don’t see any problem.
Don’t Touch It, Rock The World - Grand Annual
Don’t Touch It (Sky Bet odds: 12/1) would have more class. He’s won a Grade One hurdle and he’s won at Punchestown. He’s a funny horse, again, he needs good ground. He’ll have his cheekpieces on, or he may even have blinkers on to make him concentrate. He’s coming to himself, he’s better this week than he was last week. He doesn’t like the cold weather. I couldn’t predict anything with him. If he can get into a rhythm and get jumping he’ll be fine. He’s a good jumper but he can get a little bit spooky at times.
Rock The World (Sky Bet odds: 12/1) is in great order. He’s in super form actually. I know he’ll have top weight probably, but he did it well last year and he goes in the same form this year. He’s a big horse, he’ll have no problem carrying the weight. I suppose Rock The World has been there and done it, while the other fellow is younger and if he puts his best foot forward he has a bit more class.