Leopardstown return on Sizing John's agenda – but Irish Gold Cup bid unlikely

Sizing John is set to make his first start since 2017 next month, with trainer Jessica Harrington on Wednesday springing a surprise by suggesting it will most likely be in the 2m1f Ladbrokes Dublin Chase, rather than the 3m Unibet Irish Gold Cup.

As much as 50mm of rain is forecast to hit Leopardstown over the next ten days, which should be enough for racing fans to finally get another glimpse of the 2017 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, who has not run since December that year.

Sizing John is a top price of 20-1 to replicate Kauto Star and regain his Magners-backed Gold Cup crown in March and, speaking at the launch of the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown, his trainer said she would prefer to start the nine-year-old off over a trip short of his best on February 2. 

"I really want to work Sizing John this weekend at Navan but it depends on what the ground is like," she said. "If I can get him out and get him working that would be great.

"He seems in very good form at home and did plenty this morning, but getting him away is the thing.

"I think, given it will be his first run back, that running him over just over two miles would be better than running him over three, so the Ladbrokes Dublin Chase is his most likely target if the rain comes."

Shattered Love will not be showing up in the Irish Gold Cup on February 3, with trainer Gordon Elliott opting to go straight for the Cheltenham Gold Cup. 

"Shattered Love won't run in the Irish Gold Cup," he said. "She came back with very sore shins from her run at Christmas and the ground will be too quick for her.

"We're going to go straight to the Cheltenham Gold Cup now. She's back hacking away but I don't want to take a chance on her on that sort of ground again because it could ruin the rest of her season."

He added: "The three I'll run in the Irish Gold Cup are Noble Endeavor, Outlander and The Storyteller. Outlander loves the place and didn't run badly last time.

"The Storyteller made a mistake at the last in the Savills Chase and would have finished closer but for that. Noble Endeavor could do with rain but is in great form at home."

One horse who is on target for the Irish Gold Cup is Road To Respect, who had to endure a troubled run when third to Kemboy in the Savills Chase. 

"It was a very peculiar race at Christmas," said trainer Noel Meade. "There was no pace and it turned into a six-furlong sprint rather than a three-mile chase. Road To Respect slipped twice and things didn't go his way, but I was delighted with the way he finished his race.

"He came home safely, which was the main thing, and he's been in good form since so heads to Leopardstown next."