Last updated: 12/31/19 3:02 PM
Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Sizing John suffered his long-awaited return to action when Irish Grand National winner Burrows Saint dominated from the front in the Bet With Tote in Punchestown Hurdle.
Sizing John completed the rare highs of the Irish Gold Cup in Leopardstown, the blue riband in Cheltenham and the Punchestown Gold Cup in the first half of 2017.
Although he made a flying start with the next campaign in the John Durkan, the gelding by Jessica Harrington disappointed in the Christmas period of that year, and injuries have kept him out of the trail ever since.
He was a 4-1 chance at his first competitive appearance in 733 days – and was in second place at the crumbling landing after jumping the third flight to the finish.
Sizing John rose quickly and galloped without a rider, while rider Barry Geraghty was also fast up.
Harrington reported that her attack had appeared apparently intact and said, “Barry was delighted by him. He said he had just come to life, he jumped perfectly over the obstacle and gravity took over.
“He had done everything well until then and had not had a blow. He said he was a little cold halfway through the race and then he relaxed in it. As soon as Stratum came on his outside, he wanted to Go.
“He will be painful because that was a major fall. Hopefully he will be fine in the morning and we will see how he is doing before he makes decisions.
“The Kinloch Brae and the Galmoy Hurdle are two options for him, but we’ll see how he is the first.”
Geraghty added, “He felt great. He flew the third-last but one step afterwards, he stumbled and couldn’t get his landing gear off.”
Burrows Saint gave Willie Mullins his very first Irish Grand National success last season and was 13-2 on his return to the horde in the hands of jockey-of-the-moment Rachael Blackmore.
Blackmore steadily increased the pace at the front and opened a big advantage over the rest of the field that ran straight across the back.
After the exit from Sizing John, Burrows Saint had a clear lead on the home corner and galloped strongly to score with three and a quarter length.
Winner champ Saglawy (favorite 7-4) achieved late win to fill second place, with Sayo and Stratum completing a one-two-three-four for the champion coach.
Mullins said: “It was an enterprising ride and Rachael did what I asked her to do. She jumped out and galloped and the horse did well. She even said when he got tired that when he saw an obstacle he wanted to go down galloping He likes to jump.
“That was a nice surprise because he was not treated well by the circumstances.”
He added: “Sayo jumped badly early. We are probably going after his career because he does not like jumping and it took him a few obstacles to get well.
“Paul (Townend) thought that Saglawy did not go for him and did not enjoy it. Stratum stayed and there will be more options for him.”