Harrington reveals 'no clinical reason' for Sizing John's struggles
Jessica Harrington remains at a loss to definitively explain the below-par performance of Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Sizing John at Leopardstown over Christmas.
The eight-year-old carried all before him in the staying chase department last season, winning the Irish Gold Cup and Punchestown equivalent in addition to his famous success at Cheltenham.
He made a fine reappearance in the John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown in heavy ground last month, but could only beat Yorkhill home when a distant seventh of eight finishers in the Leopardstown Christmas Chase, for which he was sent off the odds-on favourite.
Harrington said: "We have not found any clinical reason so far from the tests carried out."
Owned by the late Alan and Ann Potts, Sizing John is the general second-favourite for a Gold Cup repeat in March behind Nicky Henderson's King George VI Chase winner Might Bite.
Meanwhile, Samcro will miss the Lawlor's Of Naas Novice Hurdle on Sunday after producing a scope not totally to the satisfaction of connections.
The much-talked-about six-year-old has looked an exciting prospect in winning his two starts over hurdles and was one of eight of the 15 possibles representing owners Gigginstown House Stud and trainer Gordon Elliott.
"Gordon called me a short while ago and told me the horse scoped ordinary. He now won't run," said Gigginstown's racing manager Eddie O'Leary.
"It's not a bad scope. Hopefully he'll run at the winter festival in Leopardstown (in February)."
Having been installed as the odds-on favourite when the race was priced up on Tuesday, Samcro had been overtaken at the head of the ante-post market by the Willie Mullins-trained Next Destination, who was an easy winner of the Grade Two Navan Novice Hurdle last month.
Elsewhere, dual winner Un De Sceaux heads 14 entries for the Royal Salute Whisky Clarence House Chase at Ascot on January 20.
Un De Sceaux has had just the one start this winter, but it was an impressive one in the Hilly Way Chase at Cork last month. The only other Irish contender is Ball D'Arc from Gordon Elliott's stable. He was beaten in fourth when unseating his rider in the Grade One awarded to Simply Ned at Leopardstown over Christmas.