Harrington issues glowing reports on 'powerhouses' Sizing John and Our Duke
Reigning champion Sizing John is tanking along and nearing his fighting weight as the defence of his Cheltenham Gold Cup belt looms, trainer Jessica Harrington reported on Tuesday.
Sizing John blotted his copybook in the Leopardstown Christmas Chase but was subject of a bullish bulletin on Tuesday, with the Timico-backed festival feature just over a fortnight away.
The trainer, who turned 71 on Monday, will go to war against Might Bite and co with not one but two "powerhouses", as she also voiced delight with Our Duke's well-being.
She said of 6-1 third favourite Sizing John: “His weight is coming down to exactly where we want it to be at, and we still have two weeks and a bit to go.
“He’s very well and the gun hasn’t been properly put to his head. He did a good breeze yesterday and this morning, because we weren't sure what was going to happen with the weather.
"He tanked away in his work this morning and all he wanted to do was get past Supasundae. One more nice racecourse workout is planned, and if he does it all on the bridle I’ll be very happy.”
That workout will, weather permitting, be at Leopardstown next week, where he could pop over a few fences.
Harrington said: “We're going to see what the weather does between now and then before we decide for definite, but the plan is to go to Leopardstown after racing on Monday or early Tuesday."
Reflecting on Sizing John’s last run, when he was a laboured seventh behind Road To Respect, beaten 32 lengths, Harrington said: “He just overheated a bit. I think it probably came a bit too soon after the John Durkan than we appreciated at the time.
“We never found a particular reason why it happened, but we let him right down to get his temperature back up again. He was never going to be rushed to get to Leopardstown for the Dublin Racing Festival so we let things be with a view to Cheltenham."
'There's not a story there' – Robbie Power didn't choose to ride Sizing John
Stable jockey Robbie Power will partner Sizing John, who runs in the colours of the late Alan and Ann Potts, with Noel Fehily on Our Duke, a situation Harrington was keen to stress did not amount to Power having chosen one over the other.
“He was contracted to ride for Alan and Ann Potts so there's not a story there," she said. "He was always going to ride their horses, especially if they were trained by me."
She added: “What I try to do is follow what Alan and Ann always wanted. They also always said they’d give horses time.”
Fehily will have his first sit on Our Duke on Wednesday, who was reported by his trainer to have come out of his recent Red Mills Chase win in terrific form.
“He had a bad start to the season when pulling up in the JNwine.com Champion Chase, and we soon discovered that he’d a problem with a kissing spine," said Harrington.
“He's back in good order now, a big strong powerhouse like Sizing John.
"The reason why we took him to Gowran for the Red Mills is because he didn’t have a hard race at Leopardstown in the Irish Gold Cup, as he made a bad mistake at the second-last and Robert gave him a chance to recover."
She added: “Our Duke is an amazing story really because he’s bred by the Coopers, who are small owner-breeders, have only one mare, and they have bred a potential Gold Cup winner.”
Our Duke, last year's Irish Grand National winner, is 8-1 fourth favourite in a Gold Cup market headed by Might Bite at 4-1, with Native River next best at a general 11-2.
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