Sizing Europe is the proven performer

Questions marks over Arvika Ligeonniere and The Tullow Tank

Just five days shy of his official 12th birthday, and less than three months before his real one on March 24th, the star veteran Sizing Europe can successfully defy both time and a strong Grade One field in the €100,000 Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase at Leopardstown today.

One of Irish racing’s stalwart figures for almost half a decade, Sizing Europe has his 40th career start this afternoon, a career already boasting 20 wins and a prize-money total in excess of €1.4 million, not to mention a 50 per cent success rate at Leopardstown.

Since finishing runner-up to De Valira in a bumper at this track on his debut in March of 2006, and running third to the same horse on this day all the way back in 2006, Henry De Bromhead's star has won an Irish Champion Hurdle (2008) and the big St Stephen's Day novice chase (2009) as well as this race last year at the Dublin course, all Grade One's, that have helped him reach a tally of seven top-flight wins.

Even some of the 2011 Queen Mother winner's defeats have only enhanced his reputation, none more so than running Sprinter Scare to five and a half lengths at the Punchestown Festival last April, the closest any horse has got over fences.


It all adds up to a hugely enviable CV that has cemented the place of trainer Henry De Bromhead, and owners, Ann and Alan Potts, at the forefront of the racing scene, and which leaves Sizing Europe as something of an open-book in terms of his claims to another big pot.

No one can expect him to be at the same peak he was a couple of seasons ago, but in terms of official ratings, Sizing Europe's current mark of 167 still leaves him clear of a list of young pretenders that includes Willie Mullins's Arvika Ligeonniere and the English raider Kid Cassidy.

What is well established about the veteran now is that he relishes good ground, something he’s not going to get here, but even though he again failed to crack the three-mile code at Down Royal last month in the race won by Roi Du Mee, there was no arguing with the resolution he showed to finish runner-up.

Back to two miles, he can be more expansive in his jumping and just as importantly, De Bromhead reports him to in the sort of form that belies his years. With question-marks about Arvika Ligeonniere’s preference for going right-handed, and a fall on his last appearance at Leopardstown, it isn’t just sentiment that can lead one back to the popular old-timer as a winner.

Question-marks also hang over The Tullow Tank’s ability to replicate his best form going left-handed, but he will still be a formidable proposition in the Grade One Future Champions Novice Hurdle.

The Barry Connell-owned youngster is attempting a top-flight double – completed by Jezki last year – having landed the Royal Bond at Fairyhouse at the start of the month.

This time another exciting novice owned by Rich Ricci is the Closutton representative but there's going to be no extravagantly short odds about Moyle Park, who can be fancied to cope with a strong field that includes stable companion Arctic Fire.

Paul Townend’s mount was easy to note running on in third behind The Tullow Tank in the Royal Bond, finishing well off a slow pace that hardly suited him, a comment that also applies to the winner who nevertheless found a way to win.

That sort of resilience is always admirable but trainer Philip Fenton's admission that he worries about The Tullow Tank's preference for going right-handed is hardly encouraging in a hugely difficult race against an opponent like Moyle Park who really fits the 'could-be-anything' profile after three unbeaten runs.

Mullins's latest French recruit, Ivan Grozny, a double-winner in the spring and Group Three-placed at Longchamp, can successfully kick things off in the opener while Champagne James, a very smart bumper performer last season, should be tough to beat in the second Paddy PowerMaiden Hurdle.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column