Kauto Star looks set to face a mouth-watering challenge from Sizing Europe in next month’s Down Royal Festival feature, the JNwine.com Champion Chase.
Trainer Henry De Bromhead remained upbeat despite Sizing Europe's defeat to China Rock at Punchestown yesterday, with a showdown against two-time Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Kauto Star now on the agenda.
Sizing Europe enjoyed a fantastic first season over fences, winning twice in Grade One company, including a victorious display in this year’s Arkle Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival.
He was stepped up to the best part of three miles for yesterday’s seasonal reappearance and travelled kindly for much of the contest under Andrew Lynch.
The Mouse Morris-trained China Rock had the benefit of race fitness, though, and made plenty of the running under Ruby Walsh, pulling clear from Sizing Europe before the turn for home to score by seven lengths.
De Bromhead is keen to have another crack at staying distances with his stable star, so a clash with Kauto Star on November 6 is an intriguing possibility.
“I thought he ran very well, and I thought Ruby and Mouse had their tactics spot-on as they were always going to test us for the trip,” the Waterford handler said.
“His jumping was a little bit rusty but that will improve as we go on and I felt he got the trip, so I'm happy.
“He had a big blow after the fourth-last and he'll improve a lot for that. He stayed on again after the second-last.
“We'd like to know whether we're going two miles or three miles sooner rather than later, so maybe we'll have a look at the Down Royal race.”