Super Sizing lands Tied Cottage
Sizing Europe put up a sizzling performance to win his match-up with Big Zeb in the Boylesports.com Tied Cottage Chase at Punchestown.
Imperial Shabra, the outsider of the three runners, led from the off but Andrew Lynch wasn't prepared to hang about and sent Sizing Europe to the front jumping the second fence and proceeded to make it a proper test as the two big guns staged their Cheltenham Festival prep.
Big Zeb was never too far away, but he couldn't raise his game when Sizing Europe (9-10 favourite) picked up between the final two fences and by the line Henry de Bromhead's star was 15 lengths clear.
Lynch said: "He's done it well. The plan was to go out and enjoy it and use his jumping. I wanted to use his big stride and though the ground was tacky, he's getting stronger now and handles it better. He should improve for that - he hasn't run since the Tingle Creek."
De Bromhead added: "I'm delighted. Andrew said he didn't jump like he normally does, but I thought he was brilliant. He just popped a few because of the ground and didn't let fly, but it was a savage performance and it is straight to Cheltenham now.
"He is an amazing horse to be involved with. I'm probably only brave enough now to make the running with him - it has taken me six years to let him roll on at his own pace. In most of the top races there is plenty of pace on so he didn't need to do that, but I said to Andrew to just go out and enjoy himself.
"It is great for Irish racing to have two champions running here and this was a stepping stone for both horses - they are usually so close and I'm sure they'll be a lot closer come Cheltenham."
A disappointed Colm Murphy said of Big Zeb: "Robbie was never happy with him today - he said he was always niggling just to keep in touch. In fairness, the winner was very good - he's gone a proper gallop on heavy ground.
"We'll improve for the run, but we'll have to. Robbie said he was beat before the first fence. It was always a worry running on that ground, it was proper testing. Cheltenham is still the plan."
Paddy Power go 11-10 (from 2-1) about the winner retaining his Queen Mother Champion Chase title at the Cheltenham Festival. The same firm pushed out Big Zeb to 6-1 from 4s.