| 11.5°C Belfast

Sizing Europe jumps into new challenge at Punchestown

Though the Flat is yet to reach its final crescendo, with Champions' Day imminent and the Breeders' Cup still to come, what may prove one of the most significant experiments of the entire jumps season takes place at Punchestown today.

Sizing Europe, winner of the Irish Independent Arkle Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival, begins his second season over fences with a radical step up in distance, to just short of three miles. The idea is to establish his eligibility to emulate War Of Attrition and Kicking King, both of whom began their chasing careers over two miles and took in today's race en route to winning the Totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup itself.

True, Sizing Europe will do well to establish his stamina definitively against just three rivals on top of the ground, but his history of going so well fresh means that any sign of weariness could be safely attributed to the distance. For now, Henry De Bromhead has an open mind.

“I don't know if he'll stay, that's why we are running him,” the trainer said. “He did win a beginners' chase over two and a half at Punchestown. If he doesn't stay, we can always go back and look at races like the Queen Mother Champion Chase. If he gets home, the King George is a possible target.”

As for Champions' Day, everything remains in place for a stellar juvenile showdown in the Jumeirah Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket on Saturday after Dream Ahead came through a final piece of work yesterday.

David Simcock would presumably like to see rain before the nine-length Middle Park winner meets Frankel and company, but said: “It's all systems go. He had a blow. it was very routine, but it went grand and he did what he was asked.”

Voler La Vedette, winner of the WKD Core Hurdle at last year’s Down Royal Festival, had a cosy victory in the Grabel Mares Hurdle at Punchestown yesterday.

Colm Murphy's smart mare had the perfect start to the new campaign as she outclassed the opposition in this Listed heat.

Barry Geraghty had the 6-4 favourite handily placed as Ocean Bright and Gudnis Gracious Me shared the pace-setting.

Then he barely had to shake up Voler La Vedette just before the final flight to pull three lengths clear of Star Wood.

Voler La Vedette is 5-1 with Paddy Power for the David Nicholson Mares' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, behind even-money favourite Quevega.

Murphy said: “We're delighted to get that out of the way. She came here a little bit under-cooked and she should improve an awful lot from it.

Belfast Telegraph