Hennessy 'gutted' by Rubi's late blunder
It's not often that the reigning champion chaser's seasonal bow would slip as far under the radar as it did this weekend.
Following Friday's deluge, doubts about Saturday's meeting at Gowran Park even going ahead probably contributed to a lack of pre-race focus on Sizing Europe's reappearance. When you factor in the wider sporting media's preoccupation with events in Dunedin, Longchamp and Liverpool, Henry de Bromhead might as well have turned his nine-year-old out under the cover of darkness.
In the event, Sizing Europe got his campaign off to a winning start in fortuitous circumstances, capitalising on the last-fence spill of the Robbie Hennessy-trained Rubi Light.
A soft-ground lover, Rubi Light scored over Saturday's two-and-a-half-mile course and distance in the Red Mills Chase before finishing a fine third in the Ryanair Chase, and Hennessy has made no secret of his regard for the horse. While the Ratoath handler was "gutted" on Saturday, he deserves immense credit for turning Rubi Light out in such mean shape, as the horse had cruised around before falling.
As for Sizing Europe, it's unlikely that De Bromhead will be overly concerned with his stable star's muted turn. Andrew Lynch's mount travelled powerfully until they straightened for home, but simply never looked to be at the same pitch as Rubi Light.
Prior to reverting to two miles on good ground at Cheltenham in March, the best way of describing Sizing Europe's attempts over further was indifferent.
Should Sizing Europe and Rubi Light meet in the JNWine.Com Champion Chase at Down Royal next month over three miles, the hope would be that a clearer picture emerges as to where the champion's season will go thereafter.
Contrary to what this correspondent once believed, though, all the evidence points to him being most effective when the revs are up over the minimum distance, and it's hard to imagine him matching the standard set by the three-mile kingpin Long Run.
Lieutenant off to flying start
Following Sizing Europe's triumph, First Lieutenant was another Cheltenham Festival hero to make a winning reappearance. On his chasing debut in a Grade Three at Tipperary yesterday, Mouse Morris' exciting six-year-old did everything right to justify odds of 4/7 against more experienced and race-fit rivals under Davy Russell.
Blanco proves a hit at Belmont
Cape Blanco secured his third American Grade One on the spin when prevailing by a nose in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont on Saturday night.
On the back of his Irish Derby and Champion Stakes triumphs, that brought his top-level tally to five. Given that Cape Blanco has repeatedly come up short against the very best, you'd struggle to name another that Aidan O'Brien has campaigned quite so astutely.
Ride of the weekend
William Buick's steer on Dream Ahead to deny Goldikova in the Foret at Longchamp was exquisite. Buick took a pull inside the distance to avoid a prolonged battle, and a head verdict over a brave rival justified that daring manoeuvre.
of the weekend
Francois Doumen's success with the nine-year-old Kasbah Bliss in the Cadran was some feat. During a hurdling career that ended in 2009, Kasbah Bliss finished second to Inglis Drever in the 2008 World Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Yesterday was his fourth try at the Cadran. Doumen described the victory as on a par with The Fellow's 1994 Cheltenham Gold Cup, not least because he too had failed in three previous attempts, although a belated fourth tilt at the World Hurdle remains unlikely.
"Little bit of a lift after a disaster today, Youghal into county final, first since '93 fair play to all the lads" -- Davy Russell, whose three wins over the weekend saw him stretch seven clear in the jockeys' championship, is heartened by his home club's qualification for the Cork IHC final on Saturday.
3 The number of Irish-trained horses placed in their respective Group Ones at Longchamp yesterday: Sole Power, Fire Lily and Banimpire.
On the mark...
Richard Forristal was on the mark for readers at Tipperary yesterday when five of his selections combined at collective odds of 120/1, with his nap The Real Article returning at 11/4 following a morning gamble.
At Tipperary on Saturday, his nap Sizing Europe (1/1) and next best Westmeath (4/5) both won, while he also nominated Ascot scorer Quest For Peace (3/1) and Dream Ahead (47/10) at Longchamp.