LAST_UPDATESat, 23 Jun 2018 9pm

Cheltenham Gold Cup: 2017 Winner Sizing John Out Of 2018 Race

The 2017 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Sizing John has been ruled out of this year's race because of injury.

Trainer Jessica Harrington said the horse has suffered a hairline fracture, eight days before the race on Friday, 16 March.

The eight-year-old was aiming to become the first horse to defend the Gold Cup since Best Mate in 2003.

Harrington said the injury was a "massive blow" to her stables and the Potts family, who own the horse.

Sizing John's jockey Robbie Power said it was "heartbreaking" to be told the news by Harrington on Thursday evening.

"We're all very disappointed but don't worry, he'll be back," he posted on social media.

It is the third year running the reigning champion has missed the event - following the absences of Coneygree and Don Cossack.

Sizing John had been about 6-1 second favourite to win with Might Bite, trained by Nicky Henderson, the 3-1 favourite.

"He cantered as normal this morning at Commonstown and during routine checks this afternoon was found to be sore behind," Harrington told bookmaker Unibet on Thursday.

"I have had our vet Mark McRedmond come and check him over. He has found a hairline non-displaced fracture of his pelvis.

"He will have box rest for two weeks and then be rescanned with a view of starting walking exercise."

The Cheltenham Festival begins on Tuesday, 13 March.


BBC horse racing correspondent Cornelius Lysaght

What a blow to the Gold Cup and to the Festival.

Though a lot of people are saying this is a wide open year for the big race, getting the defending champion back for the features goes a long way to providing a decent benchmark.

Sizing John showed his talents by storming home last year, the middle but most significant of three Gold Cups he won in barely two months.

Though well beaten in his most recent race, he had been on track to become that rarity - a back-to-back Gold Cup winner.