Jessica Harrington is hopeful that Sizing John will be in a good condition to defend his Cheltenham Gold Cup crown next month.
The Moone-based trainer was provided with a first blue riband winner by the eight-year-old last March and was backed to come out on top again, especially with an impressive win over rival Djakadam in the John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase in December.
However, Sizing John struggled in the Christmas Chase at Leopardstown that followed, finishing down in seventh as he suffered a first loss in seven outings.
It was later revealed in a veterinary report that the horse was ‘clinically abnormal’ after the poor performance, but Harrington has played down fears over Sizing John and feels he will be back to his best by March 16.
She said: “We had a bit of a hiccup over Christmas, but since then we’ve been chugging along. We haven’t done anything very quickly, but you saw this morning he tanked away and all he wanted to do was go past Supasundae.
“His weight is coming down to his racing weight that we like. We’ve not really put the gun to his head properly, but he did a good breeze on Monday and one this morning.
“He may go to Leopardstown either after racing on Monday or early Tuesday morning. He might jump a couple of fences there or we might just gallop him on the Flat.
“If he does it all on the bridle I’ll be very happy as I don’t want to put pressure on him. I want him on the day, not the day before and I don’t want to be leaving anything behind.”
On the vet’s report, Harrington added: “What does clinically abnormal mean? It covers a multitude of things.
“He’d overheated a bit. Whether that was from a slightly tying up or something, they never really found a reason.
“Once that had happened we were never going to run him again before Cheltenham as it would have been very rushed to get him to Leopardstown for the Irish Gold Cup.
“I think the race at Christmas probably came a bit soon after the Durkan. Maybe him and Djakadam had a harder race in the Durkan than either of us realised.”
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