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Big performances from Sizing John and Un De Sceaux leaves Cheltenham fans licking their lips

There was racing action at Punchestown and Cork today.

Robbie Power and Sizing John after victory at Punchestown.
Robbie Power and Sizing John after victory at Punchestown.
Image: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

SIZING JOHN SENT out a serious statement on his return to action at Punchestown this afternoon, while Un De Sceaux also produced a scorching performance to leave Cheltenham punters licking their lips ahead of the 2018 festival.

Sizing John, the winner of this year’s Cheltenham, Irish and Punchestown Gold Cups, continued his imperious form on a first outing of the season to win the Grade 1 John Durkan Memorial Chase.

While the Jessica Harrington-trained seven-year-old never looked like being beaten down the final stretch, the 2-1 second favourite survived a scare at the second fence, as jockey Robbie Power had to regain his balance, before pulling clear of Djakadam.

“First run of the year, you are always nervous,” Harrington said. “I wasn’t worried about the heavy ground going two and a half miles, but he was super. The mistake at the second fence woke us all up and he jumped super after that.

“The one place he will turn up, all things being equal, is in March (Cheltenham), and what we do between now and March will depend on the horse. We might go to Leopardstown or the King George or we might miss Christmas altogether.”

Afterwards, the champion’s odds to retain the Gold Cup in March were shortened to 4/1.

At the same time, Willie Mullins’ Un De Sceaux was the comfortable winner of the Grade Two Hilly Way Chase at Cork in what was his first start in 229 days.

Un De Sceaux was cut to 4/1 favourite Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham.

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