A full betting preview of the Champion Chase with expert tips as Sizing Europe attempts to collect this elusive title at the 2012 Cheltenham Festival.
2012 Champion Chase – Top Tip:
Sizing Europe @ 10/11
“A mind is like a parachute; it doesn’t work if it is not open”. Words attributable to the legendary experimental musician Frank Zappa. Now, I wouldn’t normally pay much heed to the musings of a man who named his children Moon, Dweezil and Diva, but in the case of Sizing Europe I’m more than willing to make an exception. In previous years, you wouldn’t dream of placing your faith in Henry De Bromhead’s stable star, with his efforts so often tainted by weak-finishing tendencies, but these days it warrants approaching the reigning champion chaser with an open mind.
It’s admittedly not been plain sailing for Sizing Europe, even since he swept to the Arkle back in 2010, but the signs since he won this race twelve months ago have been that, aged ten, he’s finally leaving behind the habits of his youth. Indeed, but for the occasional foray over three miles (he doesn’t stay, for all connections try) he’s been rock-solid since delivering his finest performance at Cheltenham, when he beat Big Zeb by five lengths. What’s followed since has been a narrow reverse to that rival at Punchestown, a pipe-opener at Gowran in the autumn, a defeat over three miles and by some way the two best performances over two miles this winter. The first of those came in the Tingle Creek, only his second foray to Britain away from Cheltenham, when he dismissed a field headed by Kauto Stone by eight lengths. That form mightn’t be the strongest, but to put his position at the top beyond doubt Sizing Europe trounced his old rival Big Zeb at Punchestown in a brutal revenge attack for his defeat there in May. He’ll probably be close to odds on by the time he lines up to defend his title, and it’s hard to see what’s can beat him.
Finian’s Rainbow is about the only top two-miler Sizing Europe is yet to conquer. Runner-up in last year’s Arkle, Finian’s Rainbow has met with defeat on only one other occasion over fences, that being when second to Somersby in the Victor Chandler Chase last time. There’s a case for saying that Finian’s Rainbow, an out-and-out two-miler, was asked for a decisive effort a bit sooner than ideal that day, which allowed him to be worn down late on. He’s sure to have his say in the Champion Chase, as the most unexposed of the major players, but once he tackles the hill he’ll likely be up against one with a lot more previous in Sizing Europe, a three-time Cheltenham winner.
It’s hard to see anything else challenging the main three should they give their running, and even then it would be a disappointment if the 11-year-old Big Zeb came out on top of his younger rivals. With Finian’s Rainbow yet to prove he gets up the hill well enough in a championship race, I’m nominating the reformed Sizing Europe as something of a banker, but right up until the race I’d encourage you to keep an open mind.