Irish Weekend Review: Sizing steals the show in Tied Cottage

World Racing RSS / / 07 February 2012 / Leave a Comment

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The score between Big Zeb and Sizing Europe now stands at 2-2

The score between Big Zeb and Sizing Europe now stands at 2-2

"Sizing Europe is the latest of last year’s championship race winners to stamp themselves as the one to beat come March..."

Timeform's Irish team take a look back over the weekend's action...

Both weekend meetings in Ireland managed to survive the current cold snap and, whilst Cheltenham pointers were thin on the ground at Fairyhouse on Saturday, there were several performances to note at Punchestown the following day.

The most interesting Cheltenham candidate to emerge from Saturday's card was the Mouse Morris-trained Rathlin, who would be interesting for the Centenary Novices' Handicap Chase should he be allowed to take his chance. Rathlin has impressed greatly with his accurate jumping in a short space of time over fences and a breathing op, and the fitting of a tongue tie, appear to have been the making of him, following up his easy maiden win over the same course and distance in a novice on Saturday. He was value for much more than the winning margin as he made all to beat Banjaxed Girl by two and a three quarter lengths. Rathlin's form took off over hurdles when faced with a sounder surface last season, finishing a good second to Prima Vista in a Grade 2 Novice at Punchestown, so he may well take another big step forward as the ground begins to improve.

Yet another Gigginstown House Stud-owned horse to emerge as having Cheltenham potential was the Charles Byrnes-trained Trifolium, who is now trading at [18.0] for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle having resumed winning ways in the Grade 2 Racing UK Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle at Punchestown on Sunday. Formerly trained by E. Leenders in France, Trifolium registered his third win from his last four starts in impressive fashion, brushing aside a trio of recent maiden winners and pulling nine lengths clear of the well-regarded Simenon. Trifolium's current price for Cheltenham represents little value though as, given he clearly has bags of speed, being aimed at Aintree may bring greater rewards.

The feature event on the card was undoubtedly the Grade 2 Tied Cottage Chase, which was pretty much a match between the two best two-mile chasers around in Sizing Europe and Big Zeb, and it was left to the former to enhance his claims of a repeat success in the Champion Chase with an authoritative display, jumping well up front and finding plenty once sent on two out to get the better of Big Zeb for the first time in three attempts at the track. Sizing Europe is the latest of last year's championship race winners to stamp themselves as the one to beat come March, as he currently trades at [2.38] for the two-mile chase showpiece at Cheltenham.

The Grand National Handicap Trial was a typically competitive heat and, although the Willie Mullins-trained Up The Beat had to settle for second behind the progressive Portrait King, he put up a useful performance on just his third start over fences and put himself firmly in the frame for a crack at the National Hunt Chase next month. A big imposing gelding, Up The Beat jumped soundly under a patient ride and, though he couldn't get to grips with the winner, he stayed on well to pull clear of the remainder from the last, suggesting the extra four furlongs at Cheltenham isn't going to trouble him.

There aren't many very smart chasers that make the switch to cross-country events, even fewer take to the unique sphere with the aptitude that Scotsirish has, and his smooth victory over Garde Champetre at the weekend strengthened his position at the head of the market for the Cross-Country Handicap at Cheltenham. Scotsirish looked the most likely winner when carried out in the Glenfarclas Chase there earlier in the season, a race eventually won by the aforementioned Garde Champetre, and it's hard to imagine him not making amends for that unfortunate defeat at the Festival.

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