Europe the real deal but Jezki steals the show
RACING: LEOPARDSTOWN FESTIVAL Sizing Europe proved yet again at Leopardstown yesterday he is the real deal with a seventh Grade One success but if ever a horse looked to justify a race title it was Jezki in the Future Champions Novice Hurdle.
Jessica Harrington’s bonny youngster maintained an unbeaten four-from-four record over flights with a hugely impressive six-length defeat of Waaheb that shot him to the top of the Supreme Novices’ betting for Cheltenham.
The last horse to complete the Royal Bond-Future Champions double was Hurricane Fly back in 2008. He didn’t make it to Cheltenham that season but it’s looking increasingly difficult to crib Jezki’s festival claims.
“He was very good and he definitely looks to be better going left-handed. He’ll also prefer better going,” Harrington said before dealing with an almost inevitable Moscow Flyer comparison query. “I think Moscow only ran in one bumper as a four-year-old. How can you compare? They’re both the same size and both have four white socks!”
A strong pace at Cheltenham will be nothing new to Jezki after yesterday’s tempo set by Sizing Rio which saw the winner clock a fine 3:57.7 on testing conditions.
“That’s very quick on the ground and I’m thrilled with him. They were going so quick he was almost off the bridle half down the back but then came back on it,” Harrington said. “We’ll see if he runs in the Deloitte or goes straight to Cheltenham for the Supreme.”
Waaheb didn’t help his chance with a slow jump at the second last but the lasting image from yesterday’s contest will be the immediate response delivered by Jezki when Robbie Power pushed the button before the last.
When Andrew Lynch pressed the proverbial button in the Dial-A-Bet Chase the response from Sizing Europe wasn’t nearly as instantaneous but soft going has never been the former two-mile champion’s favourite surface.
As it was he still had two and a half lengths in hand of Rubi Light after the pair had duelled at the front of affairs for most of the race. “Rubi Light was jumping great alongside us and both of them are very good horses to jump,” Lynch reported. “He started to idle a bit out in front on his own but at least he won. He felt the ground very dead, he’s way better on good ground but he got away with it today.”
It was a seventh top-flight victory in Sizing Europe’s illustrious career, all of which have come at or near two miles. However, trainer Henry De Bromhead confirmed his star will be given entries in the Queen Mother, the Ryanair and even the Gold Cup at Cheltenham.
“We would love to see him at three miles again and when he won at Clonmel over two and a half, it was more impressive than today,” De Bromhead said. “But it’s a case of job done here and I’m so glad we didn’t go to Kempton for the King George where it was a real slog.”
With the two-mile scene increasingly dominated by the exciting Sprinter Sacre, one firm left Sizing Europe unchanged at 6 to 1 to regain the two-mile crown but cut him to the same price for the Ryanair.
The mother-son team of Mags and Danny Mullins brought their festival tally for the week to three with a sparkling double completed by Cairdin in the two-mile handicap hurdle.
But it was the all-the-way tactics employed yet again by the young jockey on Mumbo Jumbo that promised much for the future in the maiden hurdle. “It’s great for Barry Connell [owner] to win here. He’s great for racing and deserves this,” Mags Mullins said.
Racing opened with a juvenile maiden that saw Dermot Weld’s Diplomat start a hot favourite under Tony McCoy only to finish up only third behind a familiar rival in Flaxen Flare who earned 20 to 1 Triumph Hurdle quotes.
“He beat Diplomat in a schooling race at Fairyhouse recently and we always thought he was nice,” said trainer Gordon Elliott.
“These three-year-old races can be rough and ready but we’ve been quite lucky with them.”