Cheltenham king John just fine says Harrington despite Betfair Chase drift

Jessica Harrington and Robbie Power insist Sizing John is in great shape for Saturday's Betfair Chase despite a significant market drift and concerns over the fact the jump racing heavyweight had three hard races last season.

Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Sizing John began the day as the 6-4 favourite with the sponsors but he was on Monday out to as big as 3-1 with Sky Bet for the Haydock showdown, with course specialist Bristol De Mai taking over favouritism. Bristol De Mai is generally available at 6-4, while Cue Card is 3-1 third favourite.

Sizing John has been away to the Curragh, Naas and Punchestown in the lead-up to Saturday's Grade 1 in an attempt to get him in the best possible shape for the first leg of the Triple Crown at Haydock.

Harrington said: "Sizing John galloped over a mile and a half after racing at Punchestown on Sunday. That went grand and I was very happy. He jumped around Naas over two miles the previous weekend and did that very well. He has also been to the Curragh and galloped around on the sand. He's as fit as we can have him without having a race.

"My only worry is that the three hard races he had last season might have left a mark on him. But he had hard races the season before and he came out of those well, so he should be fine.

"He's a very relaxed horse. His real trump card is he can jump at two-mile speed in a three-mile race. Every time he lands, you can steady him back and let him fill up his lungs.

"It's a big day on Saturday. It's a very good race and everybody will be gunning for Sizing John."

On the prospect of picking up the £1 million Triple Crown bonus for winning the Betfair Chase, the King George and the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Harrington said: "It will be very, very hard to win those three races in the Triple Crown. If it happens, it happens.

"It's like doing the lotto and watching the numbers coming out – if you don't have the first number, you have no chance. The first number for Sizing John comes at Haydock on Saturday and we hope he can do it."

Robbie Power has been pleased with Sizing John's preparation too but issued a word of caution about the ground.

"The main concern I have about Saturday is the ground. It could be very, very soft and he would prefer it much quicker than that. He's a lovely mover and better ground suits him. Bristol De Mai has already proved that he loves deep ground and Cue Card handles it and has had a run too, so that'll be in their favour."

There has never been an Irish winner of the Betfair Chase but there will be two chances of ending the hoodoo at Haydock on Saturday as Sizing John will be joined by last season's Lexus winner Outlander.

"The heavier the ground, the better for Outlander and Jack Kennedy will ride," said trainer Gordon Elliott.

"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.

"The chance of our lad winning the Triple Crown is very slim but, 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."

The going at Haydock on Monday was soft and the forecast is unsettled with an estimated 20mm due to fall before Saturday, which has led to a big market move for Charlie Hall Chase winner Bristol De Mai, trained by Nigel-Twiston-Davies.

Clerk of the course Kirkland Tellwright said on Monday: "It will be wet on Tuesday and Wednesday and, although the forecast for the rest of the week is better, there is still likely to be scattered showers towards the end of the week.

"We could have 20mm of rain before racing on Saturday and while I'd like to think it won't be heavy, it certainly won't be quicker than soft. It's the first day of the season and they'll get the best ground we can produce for them."

Why Sizing John is friendless in the betting

Barry Orr, Betfair
We know Bristol De Mai likes give in the ground and after the Charlie Hall Chase everyone wanted to be on him for the Betfair Chase. We’ve got our biggest liabilities ante-post on him so it’s a case of covering our position with him as much as anything. Sizing John is now out to a very backable price and I’m sure come the weekend people will want to be on the Gold Cup winner.

Michael Shinners, Sky Bet
We had a string of bets just before the confirmations for Bristol De Mai and they continued to flow after the runners were confirmed. There’s been a little for Cue Card and Sizing John later in the day but basically no-one wanted to be with Sizing John. It may be the weather, and also possibly the comments from Robbie Power in the [Racing Post's] Monday Jury saying the horse may improve for the run.

Rupert Adams, William Hill
Punters are latching on to the latest forecast, which suggests some serious rain and we are taking two bets on Bristol De Mai for every bet on Sizing John.

Simon Clare, Coral
We saw a wave of money for Bristol De Mai shortly before we suspended betting at lunchtime to await the five-day entries, and then we reopened betting the money for Bristol De Mai kept coming. It feels like punters believe the value lies with Bristol De Mai over Sizing John, whose connections have already mentioned their concern about testing ground.