Sunday 25 February 2018

Worth taking punt on Europe to stay the distance


Wayne Bailey

WITH Down Royal, Doncaster and Churchill Downs all taking place this weekend, it's hard to know where to focus. I love the Breeders' Cup as a spectacle but I haven't managed to make a button from it over the years so once again, I'll sit it out. I'm also not crazy about betting on the National Hunt this time of the year as I like to give the form a chance to bed down.

But with the UK Flat season officially ending at Doncaster, it's time to dip our toe into the jumps with the first Grade One of the season, the Champion Chase (2.20) at Ireland's most northerly racecourse.

This contest was only established in 1999 but it's been won by some greats including Kauto Star. Second to that horse in last year's race, Sizing Europe could be worth a punt at 5/1. He was rusty last time when winning at Gowran and it's worth sparing a thought for those crazy souls who backed Rubi Light in-running at 1/50 before watching him fall at the last.

Sizing Europe was lucky that day but it was his first race in five months and it will have helped to shake off some cobwebs. He ran poorly at Punchestown before going on to win the Champion Chase at Cheltenham so we can assume he'll improve -- but there are concerns about the three-mile trip. Quito De La Roque will have no problem with the distance and it will be interesting to see if the seven-year-old will add to the hype around him.

Paul Nicholls' The Nightingale was reported to have a fibrillating heart after he was pulled up in the King George at Kempton. He made plenty of mistakes on that occasion so we have to assume he's well again. But early odds of 5/1 are not generous and the tentative vote goes to Sizing Europe.

At Doncaster it would be nice to go out with a bang with Status Symbol in the Betfred November Handicap (3.10). He's generally available at 14/1 so an each-way bet is the safest call.


At 14/1, Prime Exhibit is overpriced in the Betfred The Bonus King Handicap at Doncaster (2.0). He was second in the 2010 Lincoln and he's made the frame in a number of decent races since. Running off a mark of 89, the Richard Fahy trained six-year-old doesn't appear too overburdened.


Soccer: Blackburn haven't managed to score in eight of the last 10 Premier League games against Chelsea so the 8/15 (Ladbrokes) about a Chelsea straight win looks the safest option.

Horse racing: Nicky Henderson's Molotof looks the one to beat around 7/4 in the opening Novice Hurdle at Wincanton (12.35). He was runner-up in his first three starts in juvenile hurdles but was outclassed in the JCB Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham last time. The step down in class can get him off the mark today.


12.35 Wincanton: Molotof

2.0 Doncaster: Prime Exhibit (e/w)

2.20 Down Royal: Sizing Europe

3.10 Doncaster: Status Symbol (e/w)

Irish Independent

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