Though the Flat is yet to reach its final crescendo, with Champions' Day imminent and the Breeders' Cup still to come, what may prove one of the most significant experiments of the entire jumps season takes place at Punchestown today.
Sizing Europe, winner of the Irish Independent Arkle Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival, begins his second season over fences with a radical step up in distance, to just short of three miles. The idea is to establish his eligibility to emulate War Of Attrition and Kicking King – both of whom began their chasing careers over two miles, and took in today's race en route to winning the Totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup itself.
True, Sizing Europe will do well to establish his stamina definitively against just three rivals on top of the ground, but his history of going so well fresh means that any sign of weariness could be safely attributed to the distance. For now Henry De Bromhead has an open mind. "I don't know if he'll stay, that's why we are running him," the trainer said. "He did win a beginners' chase over two and a half at Punchestown. If he doesn't stay, we can always go back and look at races like the Queen Mother Champion Chase. If he gets home, the King George is a possible target."
As for Champions' Day, everything remains in place for a stellar juvenile showdown in the Jumeirah Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket on Saturday after Dream Ahead came through a final piece of work yesterday. David Simcock would presumably like to see rain before the nine-length Middle Park winner meets Frankel and company, but said: "It's all systems go. He had a blow – it was very routine, but it went grand and he did what he was asked."
Paul Hanagan has been booked to ride Snow Fairy in the Emirates Airline Champion Stakes. With the Oaks winner's previous jockeys all unavailable, Ed Dunlop has rewarded the champion jockey elect with the chance to win the second Group One race of his career within a fortnight of his first.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Kinigi (2.30 Brighton) A six-length win over course and distance last month was the first of three in four starts and, while she has gone up 19lb, her spree may not be over yet.
On Khee (8.50 Kempton) Beat a couple of subsequent winners decisively at Windsor in July, and testing ground, combined with her absence since, disguised a promising resumption at Haydock. Return to this trip will suit.
One to watch
Maggie Mey (D O'Meara) Was only beaten in a three-way photo at York last weekend, staying on pluckily despite having shared an excessive pace.
Where the money's going
Gitano Hernando, who returned from a long break to win at Dundalk, is 8-1 from 10-1 with Paddy Power for the Emirates Airline Champion Stakes on Saturday.Reuse content