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Last Updated: February 5, 2012 5:55pm
Sizing Europe: Clear-cut win in the Tied Cottage
Sizing Europe and Andrew Lynch easily got the better of Big Zeb in the Grade 2 Tied Cottage Chase at Punchestown on Sunday.
The Henry de Bromhead-trained 10-year-old dismissed Colm Murphy's 2010 Queen Mother winner with relative ease in what turned into a straight shootout in the Grade Two heat.
Lynch adopted positive tactics on Sizing Europe and took over from the big outsider Imperial Shabra on jumping the first fence, after which he was never headed.
Big Zeb loomed up, looking briefly threatening between the final two fences, before Lynch kicked clear.
Murphy's charge had no answer to the 9-10 favourite, who ran out a 15-length winner.
Big Zeb had been favourite all week, but there was plenty of confidence in Sizing Europe on course and the pair switched positions in the market.
Both had met with defeat in the race 12 months ago, when the ill-fated Golden Silver beat them both, but they went on to dominate the finish at Cheltenham two months later.
Lynch said: "He's done it well. The plan was to go out and enjoy it and use his jumping.
"I wanted to use his big stride and though the ground was tacky he's getting stronger now and handles it better.
"He should improve for that - he hasn't run since the Tingle Creek."
Sizing Europe has been quoted as the 5-4 favourite (from 2-1) to defend his Queen Mother crown.
A disappointed Murphy said of Big Zeb: "Robbie Power was never happy with him today - he said he was always niggling just to keep in touch.
"In fairness, the winner was very good - he's gone a proper gallop on heavy ground.
"We'll improve for the run, but we'll have to.
"Robbie said he was beat before the first fence. It was always a worry running on that ground, it was proper testing.
"Cheltenham is still the plan."
De Bromhead said: "I'm delighted. Fair play to Andrew. I told him to go out and enjoy it and use his stride and his jumping - and that's what he did.
"That's how he needs to race if he's to win. We said we'd make it a good gallop and see how we go.
"I'd say that's as impressive as he's ever looked on that ground. He was amazing today, but Robbie sat up when he realised he was beaten so it was probably exaggerated.
"I'm never confident, especially going to a place like Cheltenham, as it's five weeks away yet."
The winner has been cut to11-10 from 7-4 by Sky Bet for the Queen Mother Champion Chase while the runner-up is a 5-1 chance.