Belfast Telegraph

Sizing Europe not everything in JNwine.com Champion Chase

By Robert Fenton

Sizing Europe has to be opposed as he bids to land the JNwine.com Champion Chase at the Down Royal Festival today.

This is the first Grade One event of the Irish National Hunt season and is the highlight of the best two days of racing in Northern Ireland.

The former Cheltenham Champion Chase winner has seven Grade One victories under his belt but none have come at distances in excess of two and a half miles.

Twice before he has shown he doesn't truly stay the 3m trip, especially in soft ground, and any further rain is hardly likely to help his cause to win.

Henry de Bromhead's 11-year-old lost out to Kauto Star in 2010 and a year later was grabbed in the closing stages by stamina-ladened Quito De La Rogue who's also back for another crack. The trainer pulled Europe out last year because of the heavy ground and it would be no surprise if a similar thing happened, although the current going of good to yielding would be ideal. The horse won his opening race of the season when winning the Gowran Park Champion Chase for a third year in a row – over 2m 4f – so fitness shouldn't be an issue when it comes down to it.

Jockey Andrew Lynch firmly believes the 11/4 favourite can make amends this time in view of Sizing being less exuberant over his fences but there's still too much to be taken on trust alone.

Last year's winner Kauto Stone from the Paul Nicholls yard, returns but the stable has made a slow start to the season, although Nicholls has a great chance of landing a sixth Grade 2 Powers Irish Whiskey Chase with Rolling Aces.

But concentrating on the feature race, the one to be on is 7/2 chance (Paddy Power) First Lieutenant who is also entered for Wetherby's prestigious Charlie Hall handicap. However, Mouse Morris knows the Down Royal race is the easier of the two and it will need extreme bad weather in order to force a journey to the north of England.

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