Decision on Sizing to be left as late as possible
Sizing Europe and Andrew Lynch at Leopardstown over Christmas. Henry De Bromhead is keeping his Cheltenham options open for his stable star.
Sizing Europe has been a Cheltenham mainstay for the last half-decade but a decision on his festival target this time will be left until as late as possible.
The former two-mile champion has the option of a third attempt on the Queen Mother crown, and a clash with the festival hotpot Sprinter Sacre, or could be upped in trip to the Ryanair Chase instead.
Most bookmakers rate only Cue Card ahead of Henry De Bromhead’s star in ante-post betting for the Ryanair yet Sizing Europe is also second-favourite for the Champion Chase.
De Bromhead is determined to keep his options open for as long as possible, well aware plenty can still happen with two weeks to go to the start of the festival.
“Strong cases can be made for both races and myself, and Alan and Ann (Potts) will have to sit down and discuss everything much closer to the time,” the Co Waterford trainer said yesterday.
“But we will leave it late. I don’t want to give any indication either way because I don’t know. Things can change day-to-day.
“It’s looking unlikely that the ground will be soft at Cheltenham but if it did turn up soft or heavy, then that could make the two miles and five of the Ryanair less likely. So we will leave everything until closer to the time,” De Bromhead added.
Even making it to the festival can not be enough sometimes as Sizing Europe proved in 2009 when he had to be taken out of the Champion Hurdle on the day of the race due to a bout of travel sickness.
The year before that he looked like a potential Champion Hurdle winner until seriously damaging his back with an awkward jump at the second last.
However, over fences, Sizing Europe has been a leading light among the Irish team for the last three years, winning the Arkle in 2010, the Champion Chase in 2011, and finishing an unlucky runner-up to Finian’s Rainbow when attempting to retain his two-mile crown last year.
De Bromhead’s other 2011 festival winner, Sizing Australia, will return for another crack at the cross-country crown despite falling in his last start at Punchestown behind Arabella Boy earlier this month.
“He will appreciate much better ground and has good course and distance form so he will go and we will have a few others as well.
“Sizing Gold (runner-up to Pont Alexandre on his last start) will go for the three mile race (Albert Bartlett.) He’s a gorgeous horse. Querious Bleu had a good run over the course and distance in October and will go for the Coral Cup.
“Berties Dream is in the Pertemps and Absolutlyfantastic is in the Grand Annual. He is quite ground dependant and we’ll see what weight he gets,” he said.
One horse unlikely to travel though is Buckers Bridge, narrow winner of the Flyingbolt at Navan last week, and likely to wait for the Powers Gold Cup at Fairyhouse over Easter.
“The Potts have Aupcharlie for the Jewson and I think we’re happy enough to wait with Buckers Bridge. It was a bit of a slog the last day so he’s more likely to go for the Powers at Fairyhouse,” De Bromhead said.
Sir Des Champs might not quite yet have Sizing Europe’s horses-for-courses pedigree around Cheltenham but he is unbeaten in two festival starts and Willie Mullins believes his liking for Prestbury Park can only help his Gold Cup chances.
All systems go
The all-conquering trainer was pleased with a piece of work his Hennessy winner put in at the weekend and Mullins reports it is all systems go for steeplechasing’s blue-riband prize.
“He worked on Saturday and worked well. Emmet Mullins rode him. He normally rides him in all his fast work,” Mullins reported.
“The one good thing about Sir Des Champs is that he’s going back to a track that he loves – horses and courses and all that sort of thing,” Mullins added.
Sir Des Champs is currently as low as 7 to 2 second-favourite to become the first Irish-trained winner of the Gold Cup since War Of Attrition in 2006.
Winner of last year’s Jewson, Sir Des Champs also scored in the 2011 Martin Pipe Conditional Hurdle at the festival.
Appeal fails O'Brien to miss meetings
Champion flat jockey Joseph O’Brien failed yesterday in his appeal to the Turf Club’s Appeals Referrals Committee against the severity of a three-day suspension for using his whip with excessive force at Dundalk earlier this month. The son of champion trainer Aidan O’Brien will miss out on dates at the all-weather track for the next three Friday nights.