Gold Cup 'still very much the aim' for Sizing John as blood tests return normal

The head-scratching continues over Sizing John's lethargic display in the Christmas Chase at Leopardstown after blood tests came back normal on Wednesday.

Sizing John trailed in seventh, 32 lengths behind Road To Respect, but nothing has come to light to explain the poor performance and Jessica Harrington is starting to believe that last month's John Durkan Chase took more out of the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner than it looked at the time.

Harrington said: "Sizing John's blood tests were all normal. We've taken swabs of this and that but so far nothing significant has shown up.

"Maybe he had a harder race at Punchestown than we thought. I know he finished out that race very well but the ground was very hard work, and look at the way Djakadam ran at Leopardstown too. Perhaps that race took it out of both of them."

Sizing John was pushed out to as big as 8-1 with some firms for the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup after Leopardstown, although he is back into a general 6-1 now and Harrington says the eight-year-old is still on course to mount a defence of his crown.

"Sizing John was fresh and well this morning and he was very enthusiastic with Kate [Harrington], so he seems to be back to himself," she reported. "The Cheltenham Gold Cup still remains very much the aim."