Leopardstown date on cards for Sizing
Henry de Bromhead looks set to run Sizing Europe in the two-mile-one-furlong Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase after confirming his stable star won't run in the King George VI Chase.
The 10-year-old has looked as good as ever in winning his two starts this season and connections remain keen to test the multiple Grade One winner over three miles on a sound surface.
However, with conditions likely to be testing at Kempton next week, Sizing Europe is set to instead head to Leopardstown.
With rain continuing to fall over most of Britain and Ireland, it would seem the shorter race, and not the Lexus Chase, is his most likely target.
"We said at the start of the season we'd love to try him over three miles on better ground, but it doesn't look like we're going to get that at the moment," De Bromhead said.
"Sometimes you do at Kempton, but unfortunately we won't this year. He has the two options at Leopardstown and we'll leave him in both races, but the way the weather is going at the moment, I would imagine he'll probably run in the two-mile race."
Another Irish-trained horse ruled out of the Kempton feature is First Lieutenant. Mouse Morris scratched his Hennessy Gold Cup third from the Kempton Grade One on Wednesday and he will instead head for the Lexus next Friday.
Morris plans to saddle China Rock in the same race for what will be his first appearance since claiming the Punchestown Gold Cup in the spring.
A total of 15 entries remain in the King George, with Sir Des Champs, from Willie Mullins' stable, the only Irish-trained possible. The Mullins-trained Hurricane Fly is one of eight remaining entries for the Istabraq Festival Hurdle at Leopardstown tomorrow week.
The 2011 Champion Hurdle hero – which made a winning return at the same track in November's Morgiana Hurdle – is one of three entries for the champion trainer, with Thousand Stars and Zaidpour also in the mix for the two-mile Grade One.
John Quinn's hugely impressive Fighting Fifth hero Countrywide Flame is the sole British-trained contender, while Captain Cee Bee, Monksland, Tilabay and top-class mare Unaccompanied complete the field.
Meanwhile, conditions will be gruelling at Ascot today when Simonsig, the outstanding novice hurdler of last season, turns his attention to fences.
Nicky Henderson launches the grey into heavy ground with due trepidation, but feels he would gain little in further deferring a comeback delayed by a slight relapse last month.
It is not as if the going is drying out any time soon, and Simonsig already has a limited window to gain experience of his new vocation before returning to Cheltenham in March.
Only four rivals take on Simonsig, none remotely pretending to have the class he showed in winning at the Festival on good ground last season.
Instead he must overcome a more insidious foe, and Henderson admitted yesterday that he does not know how the horse will cope. "It's going to be horrible," he said. "But if he hates it, he's just going to have to put up with it. I have to get him out."
Barry Geraghty, stable jockey at Seven Barrows, warms up for Simonsig with another odds-on favourite in Puffin Bay.
Winner of two bumpers before impressing over timber at Newbury last month, this horse looks eligible to sustain a sense of renewal in his trainer's career, and Oliver Sherwood seems confident he will handle conditions.
The deluges continue to disrupt the jumps programme, though the Peterborough Chase has again been salvaged after the loss of Exeter yesterday.
Originally scheduled for Huntingdon last week, the race will now strengthen the second day of the Christmas meeting at Kempton.