De Bromhead sizing up Europe's Christmas options
It is almost two years since Sizing Europe endured an abortive trip to Kempton for a frozen-off King George VI Chase but that isn’t dissuading trainer Henry De Bromhead from contemplating a return to the Christmas highlight.
Not even a lengthy journey home to his Waterford base at the end of 2010 prevented Sizing Europe from reaching a career pinnacle later that season in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham.
However, even allowing for how all five of his Grade One victories over fences have come at two miles, De Bromhead’s trust in his stable star’s stamina remains undiminished as he weighs up Sizing Europe’s festive options at the end of this month.
As well as the Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase at Leopardstown, Sizing Europe is entered in the Lexus Chase over three miles at the south Dublin course and intriguingly also has the King George as a possible target.
A couple of attempts at three miles to date by the former two-mile champion have yielded runner-up placings in back-to-back renewals of the JNwine Champion Chase at Down Royal.
De Bromhead was anxious to avoid another Down Royal slog on soft ground last month but more suitable ground conditions could yet dictate a return to the longer trip – and across channel. “He’s in super form. He was brilliant the other day (Clonmel) and he’s looking much more like a staying type of horse this year,” De Bromhead said yesterday.
“We have three options – the King George, the Lexus and the Dial-A-Bet Chase at Leopardstown. We haven’t decided yet,” he added. “I think he has already proved he gets further. He was second to Kauto Star and he was all-out on very heavy ground last year at Down Royal. I don’t know how anybody can make a case he is not a three-mile horse.”
Paul Nicholls has the Paddy Power winner Al Ferof lined up for the King George this time but Britain’s champion trainer could also be crossing the Irish Sea over the holiday period after indicating yesterday that the enigmatic Tidal Bay has the Lexus at Leopardstown in his sights.
Saturday’s Hennessy runner-up has been rejuvenated this season and Nicholls knows what it takes to land the Lexus with Denman successful in 2007.
Leopardstown could host a stronger than usual cross-channel representation this Christmas with last weekend’s Fighting Fifth winner Countrywide Flame a likely starter in the Istabraq Hurdle.
The hugely exciting novice hurdler Don Cossack will be in Grade One action before Christmas as trainer Gordon Elliott has confirmed Sunday week’s Navan Hurdle is his next likely target.
Don Cossack made an impressive jumping debut at Navan nine days ago. “He has come out of that race very well. There is a winners of one at Navan this Saturday, but he is almost certain to wait for the Grade One there the following weekend,” Elliott said.