De Bromhead sizing up Festival target
Henry de Bromhead still remains undecided about Sizing Europe's Cheltenham target, despite his stable star's relatively comfortable success in the Boylesports.com Tied Cottage Chase at Punchestown.
De Bromhead does not want to commit the 2011 Queen Mother Champion Chase winner to any specific race at next month's Festival, although he admits the Gold Cup is unlikely.
The 11-year-old has now won all his four starts this winter after Andrew Lynch made all the running to get the better of a gallant Foildubh.
While the 1/8 hotpot didn't jump with his usual fluency on unfavourable testing conditions, Lynch was always in control and his partner quickened away from Foildubh on the run down to the last to gallop 10 lengths clear.
"It hasn't really made any difference to where we'll go at Cheltenham – I'd say the Gold Cup is the outsider of the three options and we'll just see how everything unfolds," De Bromhead explained.
"When you see Sprinter Sacre there last weekend, he was very impressive. Of course, that (potential opposition) is going to play a part, so we'll just have to weigh it all up and see which way we go."
Stan James eased Sizing Europe to 7/1 from 6/1 for the Queen Mother and left the veteran unchanged at 10/1 for the Ryanair.
The highly-regarded Don Cossack was installed 6/5 favourite to restore his reputation after a Navan fall in the Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle, but Gordon Elliott's charge had to play second fiddle to Mozoltov.
The Willie Mullins-trained winner was strongly pressed by Don Cossack all the way up the straight, but the son of Kayf Tara responded gamely to Ruby Walsh's urgings to take the spoils by a length.
"I'd imagine we're looking at the Supreme Novices' Hurdle with him and he can only be better on better ground. Ruby said he wasn't at home on that ground today," said Mullins.
Having landed the valuable Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown last time out, Colbert Station was all the rage in the Pertemps (Qualifier) Handicap Hurdle, but Ted Walsh's 11/10 favourite needed all of Tony McCoy's strength in the saddle to beat Clashnabrook by two lengths.
According to his trainer, the Aintree Grand National is now a live option for the JP McManus-owned gelding.
"I wouldn't say he was mad about the ground, but he jumps and stays. If he is going to run at Liverpool we'll have to keep him ticking over and today served its purpose," Walsh stated.
"We'll be looking at races like the Bobbyjo Chase, the Racing Plus Chase and the Red Mills Chase for him next, but his only minus is his inexperience and he's only had five runs over fences."
Punters quite literally had their fingers burnt by outsider Born In Fire which sprang a 25/1 surprise in the opening maiden hurdle.
Davy Russell made a decisive move on the Gigginstown House-owned five-year-old when he stole a few lengths on the field as they turned into the straight.
The Mouse Morris-trained gelding then kept on to hold off Byerley Babe by a length. "Obviously, there was something wrong when he ran deplorably badly at Naas, but we never found anything to explain it," said Morris.
Russell completed a double on Lastoftheleaders in the Dan Moore Memorial Handicap Chase, named after trainer Arthur Moore's late father.
The 12/1 shot galloped on strongly to see off Alderwood and with the winning trainer in France, his son JD Moore said: "We're delighted to win this race and it's a lovely pot to win."
Enda Bolger's fine record over the Punchestown banks continued as Arabella Boy ground out victory in the Glenfarclas PP Hogan Memorial Cross Country Chase.
Nina Carberry sent the eight-year-old into the lead some way out, but the 9/2 chance looked as though he might he beaten when he slowed up going to the last obstacle.
That appeared to let in Big Shu, but Arabella Boy found more for his rider to pull away and win by a length.
"Arabella Boy travelled well all the way and he'll go for the Cross-Country Chase on the Tuesday at Cheltenham and he'll come back here to run in the La Touche," said Bolger, who was winning the race – named in honour of his father-in-law – for the fourth time in the last six runnings.
Oliver McKiernan's Spot The Boss outstayed the opposition in the Michael Fitzpatrick Memorial Grand National Trial Handicap Chase under Robbie Colgan, while Peter Fahey's Railway Tommy (10/1) overturned 4/6 favourite Rough Justice in the bumper in the hands of 7lb claimer Shane Butler.