The Jessica Harrington-trained Sizing John has been forced into retirement, due to injury, something which has often plagued his sensational career. The 10-year-old was entered to race in the Listowel Kerry Group Steeplechase on September 20th, which would have been his first race since December 2019, however he picked up a career-ending injury, which thankfully isn’t life-threatening, in his final gallop before heading to the Irish racecourse.
Having spent much of his early days playing second best to Willie Mullins’ legendary Douvan, who was often the favourite on betting exchange sites, finishing behind the 2016-17 top-rated Steeplechaser on a whopping seven occasions, it was in 2017 that Sizing John was finally able to show horse racing fans around the country what he was capable of.
After being transferred to Harrington in 2016, he was beaten by Douvan at Leopardstown at the end of December, in the first race under his new trainer, and unfamiliar jockey, Robbie Power. But, with Power back in the saddle, Sizing John picked up his first win since 2015, in the Grade 3 Kinloch Brae Chase at Thurles, beating favourite Sub Lieutenant by 2 and a half lengths.
The following month Sizing John was successful again, this time in the Grade 1 Irish Gold Cup Stakes. The gelding entered the race as the 10/3 second favourite, behind Don Poli, who he took over at the final hurdle, before holding off a late challenge from Empire Of Dirt to win the race by three quarters of a length.
But it was at the prestigious Cheltenham Festival, in March 2017, that Sizing John picked up the biggest win of his career. Mullins-trained Djakadam was the market leader at 3/1, with Sizing John the fourth favourite, according to the bookies. However, jockey Power steered the gelding to a two and three quarters victory – becoming the first horse since 1996 to win both the Irish Gold Cup and Cheltenham Gold Cup in the same season.
The big wins didn’t stop there, either! This time as the 9/10F, Sizing John beat Djakadam by a short neck to win the Grade 1 Punchestown Gold Cup – becoming the first horse to win an impressive three Gold Cups in the same season.
After being held-up by Douvan for much of his career, it was now Sizing John’s turn to give Mullins a headache, and for the third time, the Harrington-trained gelding trashed Djakadam, winning the John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase in December 2017 by a whopping seven lengths.
A below par performance in the Leopardstown Christmas Chase seen Sizing John, who was the odds-on favourite, finish a disappointing seventh, some 32 lengths behind the winner, Road To Respect. It was over two years before the gelding returned to the track, and in what turned out to be Sizing John’s final race, he fell three hurdles from the finish.
"Cheltenham was unbelievable – magical. You don’t need an aeroplane to bring you home from places like that when things like that happen to you." Mrs Harrington told Racing TV from Naas last week when discussing Sizing John’s retirement.