Sizing Europe rolled back the years yesterday as the veteran won the Boylesports.com Champion Chase for a second time at Punchestown.
The 12-year-old was always travelling well and looked to have lost none of his enthusiasm or talent as he repeated his 2012 success in the race, registering an eighth win at the highest level for his trainer Henry de Bromhead.
Leading before the second-last fence under Andrew Lynch, Sizing Europe (7-1) kept on strongly to deny the David Pipe-trained Ballynagour by five and a half lengths, with Savello third.
There was drama down the back straight where favourite Hidden Cyclone fell and hampered Module, who was immediately pulled up.
Owner Alan Potts told At The Races: “Fantastic. I could see him winning because there was nothing in that race that had beaten us. Somersby beat us once. We beat him the rest of the times. Somersby obviously didn’t run the race he could, but Europe was back to his brilliant best.”
When asked if Sizing Europe would now be retired after what was an emotional triumph, Potts answered: “Yes.”
De Bromhead said: “He is just unbelievable, he was running away with Andrew. He was just loving it. I’m speechless.”
Sizing Europe was winning for the 21st time from 42 career starts, his first success under Rules coming in a bumper at Naas in 2006. Also top class over the smaller obstacles, he landed the Irish Champion Hurdle in 2008 by eight lengths from Hardy Eustace.
Faugheen took the drop back in distance in his stride as he made all the running and demolished the opposition in the Herald Champion Novice Hurdle. Tackling two miles for the first time over timber, the unbeaten Willie Mullins-trained six-year-old jumped much better than he did when winning the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham. Ruby Walsh never had an anxious moment as the 1-2 shot asserted on the home turn and sealed victory by completing an almost foot-perfect round with a good jump at the last. Paddy Power promoted the winner to 5-1 co-favourite for next year’s Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Meanwhile, Mullins feels it will be tough for On His Own to reproduce his incredible run at Cheltenham when he reappears in the Bibby Financial Services Ireland Punchestown Gold Cup today.
The Graham Wylie-owned ten-year-old was prominent throughout in the blue riband event last month but looked like being swallowed up down the back straight.
To his immense credit, On His Own battled back to be beaten just a short head after he was carried across the track by the winner, Lord Windermere. A lengthy inquiry followed, but Lord Windermere was allowed to keep the race and Wylie decided not to appeal the decision.
“We’re used to disappointment. Racing is about 99 per cent disappointment, but he ran a cracker,” said Mullins. “He had a hard race at Cheltenham and it will be tough to replicate that.”
Mullins has another strong string to his bow with Aintree winner Boston Bob.
Also owned by Wylie, he has threatened to be a very good horse for some time but had suffered several bouts of misfortune. He is the choice of Ruby Walsh, with Paul Townend on On His Own. In the big race at Ascot, Missunited will clash again with Tac De Boistron in the Longines Sagaro Stakes. Mullins also has a raider, Simenon, who was second in the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot last summer, while William Haggas’s Harris Tweed is another smart rival.