Perfect 10 for super Sacre
Sprinter Sacre stretched his unbeaten record over fences to 10 with a commanding victory in the Boylesports.com Champion Chase at Punchestown.
Nicky Henderson's superstar, sent off the 1-9 favourite, was made to work harder than usual as admirable veteran Sizing Europe set out to make all under Andrew Lynch and refused to give in when challenged for the lead at the second-last fence.
Sprinter Sacre, who travelled well throughout, held the advantage at the last and then responded well to Barry Geraghty's urgings to clear away for victory by five and a half lengths in front of an appreciative crowd.
Henderson said: "Job done. Barry said he was at his best at Cheltenham, not as sharp at Aintree and not as sharp today. To do all three (Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown) is very, very hard and he's had to work harder today than he has in the past. He can't quite jump out of this ground as easily as if it was good.
"He didn't do anything wrong, he was clean and clinical, and fair play to Sizing Europe, who ran a hell of a race. I hope everyone has enjoyed seeing him, that's why we're here. We love coming. Ireland is a nation of horse lovers and you feel you owe it to everybody to bring him here.
"There's no point leaving him at home and the reception and appreciation he got was very, very special."
Geraghty added: "Sizing Europe put it up to us today and I had to work hard. Heavy ground probably doesn't suit my lad as well and from four out it wasn't as easy as it has been elsewhere, but we still put it to bed.
"I'd say there was more tension today than there was in Cheltenham. Just the crowd - the amount of people that were here for one horse was massive and the parade ring was 20-deep, and there were cheers on the way out.
"It was the 'Bieber' effect when we were in the winner's enclosure all right, brilliant, more so than when we were in Cheltenham because I think the Irish really love to see him here."
Henry de Bromhead was rightly proud of Sizing Europe's terrific performance in defeat and said: "He was superb. I said to Andrew to go and throw the kitchen sink at your man (Sprinter Sacre) and we got him off the bridle, but he's an incredible horse. At least we saw Barry having to push him out today."