Super 'Sizing' all set to land another Gold medal
Cheltenham hero Sizing John can continue his breathless ascent by winning the Coral Punchestown Gold Cup on day two of the festival today.
Jessica Harrington has done a mildly astonishing job with this seven-year-old since he stepped up distance, having found Douvan a continual pain in the backside over two miles.
Victory in the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown offered a teasing glimpse of what was to come in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, in which he had nearly three lengths in hand of nearest pursuer Minella Rocco.
It is mightily tough to envisage those that finished behind Sizing John in the Gold Cup - Djakadam, Champagne West and Outlander - turning the form on its head at Punchestown.
And though 2015 Cheltenham sensation Coneygree is a truly exciting contender, he surely has it all to do on his first start back from injury.
Penhill can also confirm Festival form in the Novice Hurdle.
Willie Mullins' four-year-old will probably always sneak beneath the radar, but the Albert Bartlett form is usually watertight and this season's renewal should be no exception.
Penhill looked super classy along the Cheltenham run-in when he pulled a good way clear of Monalee, which renews rivalry at Punchestown.
The upwardly-mobile Presenting Percy looks the biggest danger, but Penhill could be a operating on a different level.
Dramatic Cheltenham Bumper winner Fayonagh runs in the Punchestown Champion INH Flat Race, but she might have to play a supporting role behind Someday.
Harrington's representative was thought likely to be a big player at the Festival in March but he was withdrawn on the day of the race. Compensation can be sweet for a horse which clearly has a future on the evidence of his cool, calm and collected Leopardstown success in February.
Elsewhere, Innocent Touch should be followed closely in the Investec City And Suburban Handicap at Epsom.
The Richard Fahey-trained six-year-old remains on a career-high mark, but he still looks to be an improving horse.
He is also likely to be a good deal fitter than at Pontefract a fortnight ago, when he finished third in a strong handicap over a mile and a half.
That effort deserves to be slightly upgraded, too, as he did not get the cleanest of passages towards the finishing line and only went down by three-and-a-half lengths to the above-average Snoano.
Just importantly with this race in mind is the fact he won at Epsom last summer.
Innocent Touch had a whale of a time at the capricious Surrey circuit when he gamely accounted for Sennockian Star by a length over this mile-and-a-quarter trip.
This is tougher, but he will not be knocked off his stride by whatever Mother Nature throws at Epsom, while he still has time on his side to make into a pretty sharp handicapper this summer.
Star turn on a good card is excellent Newmarket maiden winner Cracksman, which runs in the Investec Derby Trial.
Trained by John Gosden and owned by Anthony Oppenheimer, of Golden Horn fame, much has been said of the Frankel colt during the close season.
If the vibes are correct, the others will not stand a chance. Gosden has also won this race for the last two years with Christophermarlowe and So Mi Dar.
Majestic Hero is also worthy of support in the opening five-furlong handicap. The Ron Harris-trained five-year-old had struggled since he finished second at Ascot last September, but he nonetheless looked in fine fettle at Newmarket on his comeback a week ago.
Majestic Hero succumbed to El Astronaute by a short head and is only 1lb higher in the hands of Jamie Spencer.
Lingfield regular Take The Helm should be worth a little play in the one-mile handicap at the Surrey track.
The four-year-old chestnut is plenty high enough in the weights, but he remains in good order and is well worth a look back over this longer trip.
3.40 Close Shave, 4.20 Battleford, 4.55 Penhill, 5.30 Sizing John, 6.05 Someday (Nap), 6.40 Irish Cavalier, 7.15 Mystic Theatre