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Last Updated: 02/11/12 12:58pm
Sizing Europe: Hoping for dry weather
Jockey Andrew Lynch is praying the rain stays away from Down Royal to enable Sizing Europe to show his best form over three miles in the JNwine.com Champion Chase at Down Royal tomorrow.
Henry de Bromhead's 10-year-old has been second in the race for the last two seasons to Kauto Star and Quito De La Roque as connections attempt to stretch his stamina to three miles.
The last two renewals have been run in testing conditions and have proved a stiff task for Sizing Europe, who is one of the best two-mile chasers around.
However, his connections remain convinced he will stay three miles on good ground and he certainly was not stopping over two and a half miles on his reappearance at Gowran, brushing aside smart performers like Forpadydeplasterer and First Lieutenant.
"As long as the ground is OK, I can't wait to get back up on him," said Lynch.
"He's such a good horse, whatever trip you run him at.
"He's an honest horse with a big heart, but you'd like to run him on good ground over three miles.
"As long as we can win a Grade One or Two with him this year, I'll be very happy."
Mouse Morris had a late change of heart regarding First Lieutenant and decided to keep him in Ireland for the Grade One rather than send him to to Wetherby for the Charlie Hall Chase.
He was one of the best novice chasers either side of the Irish Sea last term, as he showed when beaten by only Bobs Worth in the RSA Chase.
Morris expects him to strip fitter for his run behind Sizing Europe at Gowran and he will be ridden for the first time by the in-form Bryan Cooper as Davy Russell has chosen to partner last year's winner Quito De La Roque.
"The ground should be fine for him. There is a little bit of soft in it on half the track, but it's not too bad at all," said Morris.
"The horse is well and he's come on a good bit for his last run.
"We're putting the cheekpieces on him to help him concentrate and I'll be disappointed if he doesn't run a big race."
Paul Nicholls used this race as a starting point for Kauto Star in 2008 and 2010 and the champion trainer was also successful with Taranis in 2007.
With Kauto Star, Denman and Neptune Collonges now all retired, Nicholls is looking for a successor and Kauto Stone, a half-brother to Kauto Star, was a winner on this card 12 months ago.
He ran a good race to finish second to Sizing Europe in the Tingle Creek over two miles, but failed to hit the same heights in three subsequent starts.
"This was one of his options. He has not run over three miles before but we thought it would suit him. He does go well fresh and he ran well there last year," said Nicholls.
"He seems to train off in the spring for some reason. He ran well last autumn when he won at Down Royal and was second in the Tingle Creek and lost his way a little bit.
"He looks great at the moment so I'm hoping being fresh will help him again. He just needs to relax and not tear off in front.
"We've tried to train him a bit differently this year. We just hope to get him out of his French way of running."
With Ruby Walsh in action at Wetherby, Daryl Jacob takes the mount and is interested to see how he gets on.
"I think three miles will be good for him, he won over two and a half miles there last season," said Jacob.
"He ran some nice races early in the season but he's young and he can still improve.
"I've ridden him in lots of his work at home and he feels well.
"There's a few really exciting horses in this, so it will be a good test for him."