At the third time of asking and after that infamous defeat when trying to defend his crown at Cheltenham, Sizing Europe produced a brave performance to record a deserved triumph in the Boylesports.com Champion Chase at Punchestown yesterday.
A beaten favourite in the €140,000 Grade One in 2010 and 2011, Henry de Bromhead's 10-year-old was sent off at prohibitive odds of 8/13 here.
This time, he never really looked like fluffing his lines under the ever-reliable Andrew Lynch, who was enjoying an eighth top-level success of a wonderful campaign in which the only real blip was that wholly unsatisfactory Prestbury Park reversal, when botched bypassing procedures at the last fence handed the initiative to Finian's Rainbow.
Realt Dubh did momentarily threaten to spoil the party as Sizing Europe, having taken up the lead four-out, wandered around in the heavy ground on the run to the last. Lynch, though, soon got serious and secured a cleaner leap than his pursuer at the final obstacle to put the issue beyond doubt.
"He is the horse of a lifetime, we are so lucky to have him," De Bromhead beamed of the Alan Potts-owned star afterwards. "I suppose on that ground you are there to be shot at -- and I was a bit uncomfortable coming to the last -- but he is just so tough. We'll savour today because, as we have found out, it's very hard to win these races."
The Waterford handler also revealed that, despite aborted forays over further in each of the past two seasons, Sizing Europe could yet tackle longer trips again next term.
A top-priced 14/1 for the King George, he was left unchanged by Boylesports at just 6/1 to regain his Queen Mother title in 2013.
Big Zeb, his conqueror 12 months ago, was 18 lengths behind Realt Dubh in third.
Earlier, AP McCoy performed the sort of miracle that has defined his remarkable career to drive JP McManus' Alderwood (5/2) to an unlikely victory over the odds-on Trifolium in the Evening Herald Champion Novice Hurdle.
The Tom Mullins-trained eight-year-old has improved out of all recognition of late, his County Hurdle triumph at Cheltenham preceding a win in a Grade Two at Fairyhouse.
When Davy Russell sent Trifolium into a clear lead on the turn for home here, the €49,500 winner's pot looked destined to go only one way. However, McCoy galvanised a renewed effort out of his willing partner after the last and had turned a three-length deficit into a half-length surplus by the time they flashed past the post.
"I was settling for third turning in," a delighted Mullins admitted of his first Grade One winner since 2009. "I'm thrilled for the horse as he's a great little horse to do what he has done in his last three runs. The plan is to go novice chasing next season."
Mullins completed a double on the card when Some Article (16/1) took the Goffs Land Rover Bumper under Mark Fahey, while his brother Willie helped Russell and Gigginstown Stud gain a measure of compensation for Trifolium's reversal when Sir Des Champs overcame a horrendous blunder to readily justify an SP of 2/7 in the Growise Champion Novice Chase.
After an emphatic Jewson Chase victory in March, the exciting Robin Des Champs six-year-old was stretching his unbeaten run for the champion trainer to seven in his first Grade One, though the winning margin was exaggerated as a result of Mossey Joe crashing out at the last, bringing Frisco Depot with him.
In the Boylesports.com Handicap Hurdle, Philip Hobbs secured the first British win of the week and put himself in pole position for training performance of the week when Snap Tie defied a 921-day lay-off and top-weight to grind out a 16/1 coup under Richard Johnson.
Hobbs suggested that the injury-prone 10-year-old, a Limerick bumper winner for John Kiely in 2006, could tackle the Swinton Hurdle at Haydock on May 12.
Ruby Walsh took a nasty fall after clipping heels with the eventual winner on the strong-travelling Ceol Rua turning in, but both horse and jockey emerged unscathed.
The raiders ended with two winners when Grand Jesture (25/1) took the concluding bumper for Don Cantillon.