Harrington sizing up John's King George option
Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Sizing John, defending champion Thistlecrack, and England's 'great white hope' Might Bite feature among a stellar cast of 26 entries for the 32Red King George VI Chase at Kempton.
Sizing John, trained by Jessica Harrington, heads a formidable Irish team at the first entry stage. Willie Mullins has entered both Douvan and Djakadam, while Gordon Elliott's Outlander, the Noel Meade pair of Disko and Road To Respect, and Coney Island from Eddie Harty's yard are other potential challengers from this side of the Irish Sea.
The Colin Tizzard-trained Thistlecrack was a brilliant winner of the festive highlight last season and although he has not been seen in competitive action since being beaten by the ill-fated Many Clouds at Cheltenham in January, he is favourite with some bookmakers to successfully defend his crown.
The Dorset-based trainer has a strong hand, with 2015 King George hero Cue Card and dual Grade One-winning chaser Fox Norton also in contention. The former is heading next to Haydock for the Betfair Chase and Tizzard confirmed yesterday that the Harry Cobden will replace Paddy Brennan as his jockey.
Brennan has ridden Tizzard's popular 11-year-old in his last 13 races, but in two of his last three outings, the Galway rider has hit the deck, most recently falling in last Saturday's Charlie Hall at Wetherby.
The pair have enjoyed five Grade One successes together, most notably in the last two renewals of the Betfair Chase and when beating Vautour in the 2015 King George.
Tizzard explained: "We're going to change the jockey. Paddy's had a good go on him and fell a few times. Young Harry Cobden had a school on him this morning, he only did that as the horse was so well.
"It's three times he's fallen now so we'll put someone fresh on. It's no detriment to Paddy but we owe the horse."
Nicky Henderson's RSA winner Might Bite will be hoping for better luck than at Kempton last year when he took a heavy fall at the final fence when clear in the Kauto Star Novices' Chase. Mark Bradstock's 2015 Gold Cup winner Coneygree is also entered.