Sizing John spearheads Irish assault on Gold Cup

Sizing John heading straight to Gold Cup

Sizing John heading straight to Gold Cup

The blue riband of chasing has attracted a record 18 entries from this side of the Irish Sea - just less than half of the 38 listed yesterday in the initial field.

Gold Cup champion Sizing John is heading straight to Cheltenham rather than running again this year.

Jessica Harrington's eight-year-old was in the frame to run beforehand in the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown on February 4 - a race he won 12 months ago.

However, he is a general 6-1 shot to successfully defend his crown at Prestbury Park after a disappointing showing in the Christmas Chase at Leopardstown over the festive period.

Other hopefuls from these shores include dual runner-up Djakadam, which is one of five entries for Willie Mullins as he bids to win the race for the first time. He failed to fire on his most recent run at Leopardstown's Christmas Festival, but could be joined in the Cheltenham showpiece by his stable companion Total Recall, victor of the Ladbrokes Trophy.

Sizing John made a spectacular winning return in the John Durkan at Punchestown last month, but was then a bitter disappointment in the Leopardstown Christmas Chase.

Noel Meade's recent Christmas Chase victor Road To Respect, his stablemate Disko, Jessica Harrington's 2017 Irish Grand National victor Our Duke and the Eddie Harty-trained Coney Island are other possible Irish raiders.

Harty said: 'I was delighted with Coney Island at Ascot.

The nine-year-old was a remarkable victor of the RSA Chase at last year's Festival after nearly throwing the race away on the run-in and was last seen winning the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day.

Mark Bradstock's 2015 Gold Cup hero Coneygree is in mix once more, while Colin Tizzard could call upon Native River, who has not been seen since finishing third in last year's renewal, and the popular veteran Cue Card.

'He has been entered for the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Ryanair Chase, and will also have entries in the Irish Gold Cup on February 4 and the Ascot Chase a fortnight later.

The Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained pair of Bristol De Mai and Blaklion have entries in the race as has last year's runner up Minella Rocco, trained by Co.

Across the markets, Sizing John remains second favourite behind Might Bite.

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