Harrington’s chaser was looking to follow up his Cheltenham Gold Cup win and he did so in dramatic style holding of Djakadam by just a short head
SIZING JOHN will head for his deserved summer break on top of the world after winning an epic renewal of the Coral Punchestown Gold Cup.
Jessica Harrington’s Cheltenham Gold Cup hero was the 9-10 favourite to follow up and he did so in the most dramatic style in the hands of Robbie Power.
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The Mark Bradstock-trained Coneygree, making just his third appearance since winning at Cheltenham two years ago, took the field along for much of the extended three-mile journey and he remained in front rounding the home turn.
Djakadam and Sizing John cruised up ominously, but Coneygree rallied valiantly to set up a grandstand finish – despite having made a mistake at the second-last.
There was little to choose between the three jumping the final fence, but eventual runner-up Djakadam and Sizing John asserted soon after and it was the latter who won the battle by a short head.
Power said: “There was no hiding place out there.
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“I was never that happy. I was off the bridle and he felt a bit flat, to tell you the truth.
“Fair play to the horse. He’s only a seven-year-old and he had to dig deep.
“I was all out, but he’s a very good horse.”
Sizing John has been an absolute revelation since having escaped Douvan‘s clutches over two miles, and was winning a third consecutive Gold Cup after he claimed the Irish equivalent at Leopardstown in February.
Harrington said: “It was a proper race and they went a helluva gallop from flag-fall.
“You have to jump and gallop in that race and Robbie wasn’t that happy with him. It was his fifth race since Christmas and it probably just told.
“All the way around I thought he was not going as well as he was at Cheltenham but he showed sheer guts.
“Everything was going against him – he’s also pulled off a front shoe – but he put his head down and battled.
“It’s very hard to win a Gold Cup and come here but he did it.
“Robbie gave him a great ride and is riding out of his skin. He sees the strides at the fences, he has great faith in the horse and he instils confidence into the horse.
“He’s going on his holidays now. He’s only seven and we’ll see where we go next season.”
Bradstock was unsurprisingly proud of Coneygree, who was only another length and a half away from the winner.
He said: “He’s a pretty special horse. It was wonderful.
“He pecked on landing at the second-last which, having had a long time off, you don’t need that.
“He’s got a very deceptive gallop. As long as he’s sound (on Thursday) I’ll be even happier.”
Djakadam was finishing second in the race for a third consecutive season.
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.”