De Bromhead hoping class 'Sizing' can finally fit bill
WATERFORD trainer Henry de Bromhead, who is enjoying his best season by some margin, is hoping it will be third time lucky at the Cheltenham Festival for Sizing Europe, one of the leading lights in next week's Irish Independent Arkle Trophy.
The eight-year-old's two previous visits have resulted in nothing but big vets' bills. Two years ago, he was travelling as well as anything in Katchit's Champion Hurdle when he folded in strides coming down the hill. Extensive tests pinpointed a strain of the sacroiliac joint.
Last year he went down with transit fever on arrival and was so ill he ended up staying at Cheltenham a week longer than any other visitor because the vets were reluctant to let him travel home.
This season, however, he is unbeaten in four starts over fences and has contributed in no small way to De Bromhead's 22 domestic jump winners.
He is keen to point out his tally is actually 24 if you include a Grade Two hurdle at Cheltenham in November and a five-furlong winner on the Flat at Dundalk. His previous best tally was 13 winners.
"I don't wake up pinching myself every morning," said De Bromhead, "I pinch myself every half an hour. We've tweaked a few things here and we've some nice horses."
"I was a bit disappointed with his (Sizing Europe) jumping at Fairyhouse in December, but he was a bit lighter so we backed off him, freshened him up, he's schooling well and working well. He's mad looking for a run and, though he's won on the heavy, perfect jumping ground would be ideal and he'd be able to use his fencing to best effect."
Elsewhere, Willie Mullins feels he has an excellent chance of winning next week's Weatherbys Champion Bumper for the seventh time.
The champion trainer could saddle up to four runners in the Grade One contest with Day Of A Lifetime, Bishopsfurze and Up Ou That all on target and Lios A Choill also a possible traveller.
"Day of A Lifetime did it very well and had been working very well at home," said Mullins.
"Bishopsfurze has worked well at home and I thought he put in a very good performance at Fairyhouse. He hated the sticky ground and is really a good ground horse and a lovely mover.
"Patrick (Mullins) said he wasn't moving at all so he just banked on getting him balanced and galloping in the straight and once he got him going he devoured the ground.
"It was reminiscent of what Cousin Vinny did at Punchestown, so he's fairly good. Up Ou That did it very well on bad ground in Fairyhouse after the big freeze. He's a big galloper who has won a point-to-point, so I would give him a chance as well as he will improve.
"Lios A Choill won his one bumper at Fairyhouse last year and had an injury but we're going to try and get him ready for Cheltenham as well.
"I'd say most of them are up to standard and may be better than one or two of the winners I've had," he said.
Mullins has also been keeping an eye on the potential opposition and believes Edward O'Grady's Shot From The Hip could well prove the one to beat.
"I thought Shot From The Hip was very good as he went a good gallop the whole way and anything that tried to go with him, he just bumped them off," Mullins said.
"To me that was a hell of a performance and anything that finishes in front of him will take all the beating.
"Forty Foot Tom won his bumper very well in Navan and he'll improve and Al Ferof's bumper in Fairyhouse has worked out well." (© Daily Telegraph, London)