SIZING EUROPE and Big Zeb first locked horns in a Punchestown novice hurdle in 2007 when the former came out on top. They stand at 1-1 in this event and though Colm Murphy's charge had his revenge for last year's defeat when they met at Punchestown, he was a clear second best there last month when beaten 15 lengths. It's impossible to oppose the champion on the evidence of that run and he should retain his title. Finian's Rainbow finished runner-up to Somersby in the Victor Chandler and should prefer the quicker ground but Wishfull Thinking ran so poorly that day there was probably something amiss as he had been less than a length behind Nicky Henderson's charge in the Desert Orchid at Kempton. Kauto Stone was behind Sizing Europe in the Tingle Creek and has never won at a trip this short while it would be a tremendous training feat if Noel Meade can get the classy triple Grade 1 winner Realt Dubh back to form after such a long break.
Big Zeb (IRE) Evens (11-12) Tracked leaders in 2nd from 3rd, 1 length down when ridden entering straight, no chance with easy winner from well before last, 2nd of 3, 15l behind Sizing Europe (11-12) at Punchestown 2m chs Grd 2 (1) hvy in Feb.
Finian's Rainbow (IRE) 5-2fav (11-7) Tracked leaders, led 8th, ridden approaching last, headed and no extra final 130 yards, 2nd of 8, 1 1/4l behind Somersby (11-7) at Ascot 2m 1f chs G1 (1) gs in Jan.
Gauvain (GER) 9-1 (11-7) Not fluent in rear, reminder after 7th, went left next, headway 12th, kept on to modest 3rd 2 out, went left last, no chance with leading duo, 3rd of 8, 23l behind Riverside Theatre (11-7) at Ascot 2m 5f Grade 1 chs (1) gs in Feb.
I'm So Lucky 22-1 (11-0) Held up in 5th from 2nd, went 3rd 8th, pressed for 2nd from after 5 out, no chance with winner, 3rd and no extra towards finish, 3rd of 6, 9l behind Sprinter Sacre (11-5) at Newbury 2m 1f chs Grd 2 (1) gs in Feb.
Kauto Stone (FR) 11-4 (11-7) Held up in last trio, good headway to track leaded after 7th, led before next, headed 13th, chased winner until not fluent 4 out, weakened next, tailed off, 7th of 8, well behind Riverside Theatre (11-7) at Ascot 2m 5f Grade 1 chs (1) gs in Feb.
Realt Dubh (IRE) 3-1 (11-12) Raced in 3rd, pushed along on outer after 4 out, improved to be 2nd before straight, soon challenged, carried to left before last, switched run-in and kept on well without matching winner, 2nd of 5, 1 1/4l behind Captain Chris (11-12) at Punchestown 2m nov chs G1 (1) gs in May.
Sizing Europe (IRE) 9-10fav (11-12) Led from 2nd, driven along approaching straight, drew clear before last, stayed on strongly, easily, won at Punchestown 2m chs Grd 2 (1) hvy in Feb beating Big Zeb (11-12) by 15l, 3 ran.
Wishfull Thinking 15-2 (11-7) Held up in last trio, struggling 4 out, no chance when left poor 5th briefly next, tailed off, 6th of 8, 34l behind Somersby (11-7) at Ascot 2m 1f chs G1 (1) gs in Jan.