Cheltenham Gold Cup 2017 – Sizing John

The 2017 Cheltenham Gold Cup featured thirteen runners, including Djakadam, runner-up in 2015 and 2016 for luckless Co. Carlow trainer Willie Mullins, and the equally luckless Cue Card, who had fallen three out, when travelling well, in 2016. The pair were separated in the betting by the Welsh National-winner Native River and, with Sizing John, a first ever runner in the Gold Cup for veteran Co. Kildare trainer Jessica Harrington, the only other horse sent off at a single-figure price, it appeared a four-horse race, at least on paper. The race was also notable for the presence of Lizzie Kelly, just the second woman to ride in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, although he partnership with 40/1 outsider Tea For Two lasted only as far as the second fence.

Sadly, Cue Card once again came to grief at the third-last fence but, unlike the previous year, was making little or no impression at the time and looked unlikely to be involved in the finish. Confirmed front-runner Native River attempted to make all the running, but was narrowly headed by Djakadam at the second-last fence and thereafter, while he stayed on very gamely in the closing stages, was always fighting a losing battle.

Immediately he had taken the lead, Djakadam made a mistake and surrendered the advantage to Sizing John, who established a 3-length advantage heading to the final obstacle, which he maintained, more or less, to the winning line. He passed the post 2¾ lengths ahead of the strong-finishing Minella Rocco, trained by Jonjo O’Neill, who claimed second place from Native River, by just a short head, in the final stride. Djakadam, to his credit, kept pressing for second place from the final fence but, ultimately, could find no extra in the closing stages and had to settle for fourth, just half a length behind Native River.