Cheltenham Festival: Defending champion Sizing John to miss Gold Cup

Defending champion Sizing John will miss Friday’s Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup with a hairline fracture to his pelvis. Before his withdrawal, Jessica Harrington’s charge was widely accepted as the second favourite for this years renewal behind the now solid favourite Mite Bite.

Harrington expressed her disappointment saying: “It’s most unfortunate. We were very much looking forward to him going back to Cheltenham to try and win the race for the second time. He’s off on his holidays now.”

However, the absence of last year’s winner, doesn’t leave Harrington without a live chance in the race. Last year’s runaway Irish Grand National winner Our Duke is now the third favourite for National Hunt Racing’s blue ribbon event. Robbie Power looks set to take the ride on Our Duke in the absence of Sizing John.

It now looks as if Colin Tizard’s Native River will be starting as second favourite. Last year’s Welsh National winner and Gold Cup fourth, impressed with his season reappearance a few weeks ago at Newbury. A bold show from him would be no surprise. Another horse to watch in the market is the Willie Mullins trained Killultagh Vic. He looked sure to be going onto win the Unibet Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown recently until he fell at the last. Sizing John won the Irish Gold Cup before going on to Cheltenham glory last year and Killultagh Vic looks a dark horse to cause an upset at around 10/1.

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