Saturday 7 March 2020

Cheltenham Gold Cup 2017

The 2017 Cheltenham Gold Cup, sponsored by Timico, featured 13 runners, headed by 3/1 favourite, Djakadam, who had previously finished runner-up behind Don Cossack in 2016 and Coneygree in 2015. Indeed, having travelled well for most of the way, Djakadam looked as if he might break Willie Mullins’ Gold Cup “hoodoo”, but made a mistake at the second last, having just taken the lead, and eventually finished fourth, beaten

Victory went to Sizing John, a 7-year-old owned by Alan Potts, trained by Jessica Harrington and ridden by Robbie Power. Potts said afterwards, "It’s unreal, it’s my dream and it’s come true. It’s our first runner in the race, the jockey’s first ride and Jessie's first runner.”

Earlier in his career, for Henry De Bromhead and Jessica Harrington, Sizing John had been campaigned at distances short of 3 miles. He actually finished second behind Douvan, trained by Willie Mullins, seven times over hurdles and fences at, or around, 2 miles. However, he won on his first attempt over 3 miles plus, beating Empire Of Dirt in the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown in February, 2017, and dispelled any lingering stamina doubts with a stylish performance at Cheltenham.

Aided by the departure of 9/2 third favourite, Cue Card, at the third last fence, Sizing John took up the running between the last two fences and quickly established a 3-length lead, which he held, more or less, until the winning post. Minella Rocco finished strongly to snatch second place from 7/2 second favourite Native River, by a head, but the 18/1 chance was still 2¾ lengths behind Sizing John crossing the line and never looked like catching the winner.

The winning time, of 6 minutes 36.10 seconds, was 0.90 seconds faster than the standard time for 3 miles 2½ furlongs on the New Course at Cheltenham, which bore testament to the unseasonably fast – officially “good” – ground. Unfortunately, Lizzie Kelly, the first female jockey to ride in the Cheltenham Gold Cup for 33 years, was unseated at the second fence when her mount, Tea For Two, blundered badly.

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