Djakadam can cut John down to Size in Punchestown Gold Cup
Jessica Harrington is hoping Sizing John's relative freshness will be a plus when he bids for a notable double in the Punchestown Gold Cup on this evening's second stage of the Festival.
The seven-year-old captured the Cheltenham Gold Cup last month and will attempt to become the first horse since War Of Attrition in 2006 to win both races in the same season.
That was only Sizing John's fourth race since last year's Punchestown Festival, after which he was moved by owners Potts to the Harrington stable from Henry de Bromhead.
"He seems to be in good form. We know he likes a bit of nice ground, so it's all systems go," Harrington said.
"It'll be a helluva race. You've got Djakadam again and you've got Coneygree coming over. It will only be his fifth race of the year and he didn't start campaigning until Christmas, so hopefully he's still got a bit in the tank. He's a very relaxed horse, but he is some big horse – he's enormous."
Coneygree carries British hopes as the injury-plagued 10-year-old has only his third appearance since he won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March 2015.
It has been a tough journey at times for trainer Mark Bradstock, who is simply delighted to have Coneygree ready to return to the fray after he showed his well-being in a schooling session at Ffos Las earlier this month.
Bradstock said: "It's been fraught getting him back on the course and hopefully he'll come back safe and sound. He's been great and it's all very good. I think he's taken it (the journey) quite well.
"It's quite an ask as he's been off a very long time but we think we've got him as fit as we can. He's not a very good work-horse, but he's never been a very good work-horse – that's just him, he's just got a relentless gallop.
"We've been itching to get this fellow back on the racecourse for quite a long time. At last we've managed to get him there, and it's great."
Willie Mullins is banking on Djakadam's impressive track record doing the trick after he was only fourth behind Sizing John at Cheltenham. "From only four starts over Punchestown's fences, he has won two John Durkans and finished second in the Gold Cup twice, I was disappointed with him at Cheltenham. I thought he was in great form and I was disappointed with his run.
"I wasn't surprised with how free he was – he had shown us that before and it didn't worry me as we rode him with that in mind – so I was just disappointed with his overall performance.
"Some are questioning his stamina for the Gold Cup trip, but I just think he was below his best, for whatever reason, rather than stamina being the problem. It looks an exceptionally strong renewal, which is as it should be."
Djakadam certainly has a better chance here than at Cheltenham and revenge certainly isn't out of the question over his favourite track.
He can take this for Mullins ahead of Cheltenham hero Sizing John.
Cheltenham Festival hero Penhill is one of four runners for Mullins in the Grade One three-mile novice hurdle.
The Tony Bloom-owned six-year-old claimed the Albert Bartlett last month, a performance which sets the standard in this Grade One contest.
Mullins also saddles Fairyhouse winner Al Boum Photo, Bon Papa and Tin Soldier.
Title rival Gordon Elliott relies upon Champagne Classic, who steps up a bit in grade after winning the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Hurdle at Cheltenham.
But there is a third Festival winner in the field in the form of Pat Kelly's Pertemps Final victor Presenting Percy, up 29lb since his current sequence began here in February.
Monalee, runner-up to Penhill in the Albert Bartlett, renews rivalry for Henry de Bromhead, while the Noel Meade-trained Moulin A Vent completes the eight-strong line-up.
A field of seven runners will go to post for the Champion Bumper.
The Elliott-trained Fayonagh came from last to first to win the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham and bids to follow up. The Cullentra handler also saddles Navan scorer Poli Roi.
Carter McKay, who disappointed at Cheltenham, is the sole representative for Mullins, who has saddled five of the last six winners of this event.
The Elliott pair dominate the betting with Fayonagh at 7/4, with 9/4 available about Katie Walsh's mount. Someday is a clear third-best.
Elliott's Milsean is the clear top-rated runner in the Louis Fitzgerald Hotel Hurdle but it is a long time – November 2014 at Navan – since he showed winning form. Jack Kennedy rides him though.
Minella Till Dawn may have won at Fairyhouse when exiting at the second-last in the race won by Al Boum Photo.
He went up 6 lb for that mishap which to me reads stronger than what Battleford, C'Est Jersey and Baden accomplished at Cheltenham. Drumconnor Lad has his chance too.
3.40 Crossed My Mind
4.20 Minella Till Dawn
5.30 Djakadam (Nap)
6.05 Fayonagh (Dbl)
6.40 Jetstream Jack
7.15 Bluegrass Princess
4.20 Drumconnor Lad
5.30 Sizing John
6.05 Poli Roli
6.40 Irish Cavalier
7.15 Mystic Theatre