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Europe has Cheltenham prep

Sizing Europe's trainer Henry de Bromhead is using Sunday's Tied Cottage Chase at Punchestown as a warm-up for Cheltenham.

The reigning Queen Mother Champion Chase hero did not exactly impress over longer distances on his first two outings at Gowran and Down Royal but was electric when returned to two miles in the Tingle Creek at Sandown in December.

"We'll be focusing on Cheltenham and this is a stepping stone towards that. Obviously you want to try to win every race you contest," said De Bromhead.

"There's not much between our horse and Big Zeb - just 1lb difference in the ratings. They are two high-class horses and we're certainly lucky to have our fellow. He's in good form and we're hoping for a good run."

Oliver Brady's Imperial Shabra is the only other runner but is rated leagues behind the big two and set for some place prize money unless the unexpected happens.

The organisers are optimistically making comparisons with the specially arranged match between Dawn Run and Buck House at the course in 1986, but it must first survive the weather.

Punchestown racing manager Richie Galway said: "The covers are down and have been since Tuesday. It's a labour intensive initiative but if it is the difference between racing going ahead or being abandoned it is well worth the effort.

"The hurdle and chase tracks are currently raceable and we are confident, based on the forecast, that there won't be any problems for Sunday.

"The cross country track is run over such an expanse it is not feasible to cover it. At present there are a small number of areas that are unraceable, however, if the milder temperatures arrive as forecast and given that we have moved the race to late in the day we are very hopeful."


From Belfast Telegraph