The King George VI Chase at Kempton may have been the most eagerly anticipated race of the festive season, but the Leopardstown Christmas Chase is surely a very close second.
The feature on day three at the Foxrock venue offers a potentially seismic clash between reigning Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Sizing John and pretender to the throne, Yorkhill.
The ground looks like being lovely, so that will be more in our favour.Jessica Harrington
The former has swept all before him over the last 12 months, making history by winning Gold Cups at Leopardstown, Cheltenham and Punchestown in the spring.
Sizing John returned this month to win the John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown over two and a half miles, but will revert to three miles for the Grade One Leopardstown event, formerly known as the Lexus and viewed as a key Irish trial for Cheltenham in March.
Yorkhill, meanwhile, has only run over a trip this far in his point-to-point days. He is supremely talented, but displayed quirks on his final start last season by jumping violently out to his left as he threw away the Ryanair Gold Cup at Fairyhouse.
Sizing John is 1.90 to make it six wins on the bounce, while Yorkhill trades at 4.50 as he ventures into the unknown. Jessica Harrington couldn't be happier with her stable star.
"I've been happy with Sizing John since the John Durkan and this seems a nice spot for him, then we can see what we do after that - I'm just taking each race as it comes," she said.
"There are 12 runners, so it will be fierce competitive, but I think the bigger field might actually help him. We've just got to keep out of trouble.
"The ground looks like being lovely, so that will be more in our favour."
Yorkhill promises to have the stamina needed for the three-mile journey around Leopardstown according to Patrick Mullins, assistant trainer to his father, Willie.
"Sizing John put up a huge performance in Punchestown. I thought that was probably his best ever performance and he's going to be very hard to beat," he said.
"It's his first run over three miles since his point-to-point days, but his pedigree is all staying and we're hoping this will be a stepping-stone to the Gold Cup."
Last year's winner Outlander is 17.00, while the likes of Djakadam, Road To Respect and Gold Cup second Minella Rocco add to an intriguing line-up.
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