Europe can make light work of Rubi
Sizing Europe, a stunning winner of the Champion Chase at Cheltenham last March, will be the star attraction on his seasonal return at Gowran Park today, provided the Co Kilkenny track survives an early morning inspection.
Henry de Bromhead's nine-year-old, narrowly denied by the Prestbury Park runner-up Big Zeb in a thrilling rematch at the Punchestown Festival, faces just four rivals in the €25,350 Pricewaterhousecoopers Champion Chase. Over a two-and-a-half-mile trip that he has a 100pc record at, he should get his campaign underway on a positive note.
The progressive Rubi Light, successful in the Red Mills Chase over course and distance in February before finishing a fine third in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham, is the one that could cause Sizing Europe some difficulty. Robbie Hennessy's six-year-old's efforts throughout last term confirmed that he is a chaser of some potential.
While Rubi Light will appreciate yesterday's rain that eased the going considerably at the track, it may be that he will have to wait a bit longer to take a scalp of Sizing Europe's stature.
The reigning champion endured an indifferent spell over further early on last season, and de Bromhead has yet to rule out a campaign over staying distances this term. Only time will tell how that pans out but, having sluiced up on his fencing debut over today's trip in 2009, it's hard to see him being turned over here under Andrew Lynch.
In the following beginners' chase, Davy Russell, who deputises for Lynch on Rubi Light in the Grade Two, can collect on the potentially smart Paul Nolan-trained Westmeath. Jessica Harrington's Native Palm could figure here on the basis that he has more experience over fences, but he looks limited in the context of this race.
Westmeath is a point-to-point, bumper and maiden hurdle winner. When he tackled his first handicap on just his sixth outing at Punchestown in May, he finished a creditable eighth off a lofty mark of 125, so his future over fences seems bright.
Earlier, Noel Meade's Sam Bass, which beat three subsequent winners on its hurdling debut at Galway, could follow up in the three-year-old hurdle, while Russian Regent gets the nod in the opening maiden. Cecil Ross' three-time point-to-point winner laboured home in third place on heavy ground at Ballinrobe last time. Prior to that he had shown promise when second to Bundle Of Fun on better going at the Mayo track, so conditions here should suit Robbie Colgan's mount.