Sizing John is in bonus territory
Gold Cup winner Sizing John is primed and ready to start off his season, beginning his quest for a £1m bonus in Saturday's Betfair Chase at Haydock.
The Leopardstown, Cheltenham and Punchestown Gold Cup winner schooled over fences at Naas last week and worked at Punchestown on Sunday and heads seven entries remaining for Saturday's first Grade One of the British season.
There's likely to be two Irish runners in the feature at Haydock with Gordon's Elliott's recent JNWine.com Champion Chase winner Outlander also pencilled in for the trip but Bristol De Mai is the current market leader with the sponsors.
The rain forecast for Haydock this week is the reason for the change of favourite, according to Barry Orr of Betfair.
He said: "With rain forecast, the Gold Cup winner Sizing John has been deposed at the head of the market by Bristol De Mai, who is now 13/8 from 9/4.
"Cue Card is seeking a record-equalling fourth victory in the race while Outlander has already won at the highest level this season so it should be a cracking race."
Harrington believes that her stable star may only be getting to his peak this season, despite his heroics during the last campaign.
"In theory, horses should be at their optimum in their seven to eight season and then they slightly start to go downhill," the trainer suggested.
"My only worry is the three hard races last year might leave a mark on him but he had hard races the year before and seemed to come out of it very well.
"He is a very relaxed horse and his real strength is that he jumps chase fences at two-mile speed against three-milers. When he lands, you can steady him up and go again."
The Jockey Club in England have put forward a £1m bonus for any horse that can win the Befair Chase, King George and Gold Cup this season and although Gordon Elliott isn't optimistic about landing that bonus, he does feel that Outlander could run a big race this weekend.
"The chance of our lad winning the triple crown is very slim," Elliott admitted yesterday. "If you are not in, you can't win, so we will take our chance. I would love to have a horse good enough and Don Cossack on his day might have been the one, but it is hard to do."
Outlander won the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown last season but poor runs after that led to connections looking at possible issues over the summer and the nine-year-old was treated for a kissing spine.
Elliott continued: "If you go back to his Lexus run last season, it was very good.
"A lot of people fancied him as an outsider for the Gold Cup, but he never jumped at all, which was obviously to do with his back.
"The heavier the ground, the better for Outlander. You have to respect Sizing John, Cue Card - when he is on a going day, he is brilliant - and Bristol De Mai.
"Every one of them in their own right is entitled to turn up but, if we get a bit of luck in running and everything works out, Outlander would have a good each-way chance."
Jack Kennedy will resume his role aboard Outlander on Saturday.