Give 'Europe' a resounding yes
When you consider that Sizing Europe would have been odds-on to add Thursday's Grade One novice chase to his already impressive haul of five wins from five starts over fences, Henry De Bromhead's decision to eschew that straightforward opportunity for a tilt at the Boylesports.com Champion Chase at Punchestown this evening is a brave one.
Notwithstanding the absence of Big Zeb and Master Minded, the two-miler will be a full and thorough examination of the eight-year-old's capabilities.
Forpadydeplasterer, for all that he infuriates, Twist Magic and Kalahari King are genuine contenders at this level. Granted, Golden Silver struggles on the prevailing drier ground, but he, Barker, Natal and Scotsirish add further depth to the field.
Clearly, De Bromhead believes that Sizing Europe is ready to hold his own in such company. That judgement is expected to be duly rewarded.
Tom Cooper also deserves credit for allowing Forpadydeplasterer one last chance to redeem his season here. While you can't write off such a classy and consistent animal, the fact that he has had two hard races in defeat in the space of a month is a concern.
The Tralee-based horse will love the ground, as will Kalahari King and Twist Magic, both of whose trainers have fantastic records at the Kildare festival. However, there has long been a suspicion that Sizing Europe would develop into a slightly special chaser, and he has done exactly that this season. Significantly, his best performance came on a similarly decent surface in the Irish Independent Arkle Trophy last month.
Novices that prematurely tackle championship horses are prone to capitulating but, had Sizing Europe skipped Punchestown altogether, he would have been competing at this level on his next start anyway. His jumping is solid, and he has a fine record at Punchestown, winning four times there.
With Cheltenham being his only outing since December, Sizing Europe comes here fresher than most, so the general 100/30 holds considerable appeal. His Waterford stable continues in a rich vein of form during its best ever season and, if its flagship horse graduates in the style expected, it would be a fitting climax to the campaign.
Indeed, it is possible that De Bromhead might also take the first Grade One on the card, the Evening Herald Champion Novice Hurdle. Loosen My Load represents him in this.
A winner at Cheltenham in November, the Dushyantor gelding's aversion to soft ground meant that he had a holiday through the winter. With that in mind, his return in bottomless conditions at Fairyhouse, when fourth to Luska Lad, was commendable.
The classy Blackstairmountain, which just got chinned on that occasion, is also in today's line up, as is the Aintree winner General Miller. At their peak, both would be formidable opponents, but you have to wonder if such gruelling recent encounters will diminish their respective chances.
Loosen My Load, though, wasn't given a hard time of things at Fairyhouse, and the ground could bring about the necessary improvement now. With Flat Out and Sweeps Hill also present, this will be a proper test, but De Bromhead and Andrew Lynch are taken to get their day off to the best possible start.
While Lynch has another super ride on Powers Gold Cup winner Jadanli in the Growise Novice Chase, Zaarito is tentatively preferred. Colm Murphy's horse's fencing is a concern, but the combination of a step up to three miles on good ground might make life a bit easier for him.
Elsewhere on the card, Tarkari has the scope to build on his last couple of runs in the Three.ie Handicap Hurdle, while Double Double is hard to ignore in the Goffs Land Rover Bumper. Charles O'Brien's charge looked to have a bright future when an impressive winner at Naas last month.
3.40 -- Outlaw Pete
4.20 -- Loosen My Load
4.55 -- Tarkari (nap)
5.30 -- Double Double
6.05 -- Sizing Europe
6.40 -- Zaarito
7.15 -- Noosa