Sizing best in brilliant Gold Cup – news from the second day of the Punchestown Festival

The Jessica Harrington-trained Sizing John (9/10 Fav) came out best in a fabulous renewal of the Grade 1 €250,000 CORAL PUNCHESTOWN GOLD CUP to become the first horse to win the Punchestown showpiece, the Cheltenham Gold Cup and Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown.

The 2015 Cheltenham hero Coneygree boldly tried to make the running but he was passed in the straight with Sizing John eventually holding off Djakadam to win by a short-head.
“I didn’t think he was going as well as at Cheltenham. He jumped the second last a bit slow but showed real guts to get up. Robbie (Power) is riding out of his skin at the moment,” said Harrington. “He’s the first horse I’ve run in the three Gold Cups, let alone winning them.
“His guts and class won him the race. I kept saying to my daughter Emma during the race that he wouldn’t win because Coneygree had gone too far ahead.
“He pulled off a front shoe as well which probably didn’t help. A lot of things went against him today. He is going on his holidays now.”
Power added: “There was no hiding place out there, as you would expect with Coneygree in the field. And full credit to his connections because he has run some race after a long lay-off.
“I was never that happy. Sizing John was off the bridle and felt a bit flat to tell you the truth. He was a bit slow at the second last but got his head down afterwards. He had a hard race in Cheltenham and, full credit to the horse, he is only a seven-year-old and dug deep when he had to.
“I was all out and he is just a very good horse. He has earned a good break over the summer and we can work a plan out for next season.”
Djakadam’s trainer Willie Mullins said: “He just gave the last fence a nudge but it was a tremendous race. Jessie is in such good form that she can’t be beaten at the moment. It looked like we might be getting up on the line but I have no complaints.”
Coneygree finished third and his trainer Mark Bradstock said: “Coneygree is a dude. Let’s just hope he is sound tomorrow. That is the main thing. He is a pretty special horse. He just pecked on landing at the second last and, having had a long time off, you don’t need that. He has got a very deceptive gallop as all the jockeys behind will tell you. It was an awesome run.”
Michael O’Leary described Champagne Classic as the worst horse he had in training when winning the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham last month but he will have to revise that assessment.
The six-year-old (14/1) took the Grade 1 IRISH DAILY MIRROR NOVICE HURDLE to increase trainer Gordon Elliott’s lead in the championship.
“He’s not too bad a horse,” said Elliott. “He stays well and jumps well and I think he enjoys this better ground – his best runs have come on it at Cheltenham and here. His future is definitely over fences.”
O’Leary added: “That’s not bad from the worst horse I have! I’m going to start insulting my horses more as it seems to stimulate them.”
Jockey Bryan Cooper added: “Champagne Classic did it well. To be fair, the better ground has definitely brought out the best in him.
“Gordon prepped him really well. He was a good winner at the Cheltenham Festival and has made the step up to Grade One company and done it well. He is fantastic horse and to have won a Grade One as well as a race at Cheltenham is great placing by Gordon.”
Elliott’s championship rival Willie Mullins saddled a 1-2 in the LOUIS FITZGERALD HURDLE when C’Est Jersey (7/1) came home ahead of Battleford (6/4 Fav).
“Blinkers made a huge difference to C’Est Jersey. He needs three miles every day of the week but the blinkers have just made that much difference to him,” said Mullins. “Both horses will be nice staying hurdlers next season.”
Jockey Ryan Treacy left it late to get Magic Of Light (11/1) up on the line to win the opening MARTINSTOWN OPPORTUNITY SERIES FINAL HANDICAP HURDLE by a head for owner/trainer Jessica Harrington.
“She has improved for the better ground,” said Harrington. “She jumped great and was just getting there at the end. I’ve been running her on the wrong ground and I think she wants three miles.
“I did not think she would get in because she was twelfth on the ballot list but when she did I said ‘let’s run her.’
“It is great for Ryan because he comes down and rides out for me one day a week. I am delighted for him to get a Punchestown winner.”
Ryan Treacy added: “That was great. Fair play to Mrs Harrington for giving me the ride. I go in there one day a week and am very grateful for the opportunity.
“In these races there is normally carnage at the start because everyone wants to be handy and I could hear a lot of roaring behind me. I got a lovely run up the inside and knew I was in the right place all the way. This is my first festival winner – it’s brilliant.”
The 2017 Punchestown Festival takes place from Tuesday, April 25, to Saturday, April 29.
Full event information and tickets are available from www.punchestown.com
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