Sizing Europe helps Irish raiders forget home troubles

The talk of a "greenwash" began when they realised that Sizing Europe, in plundering the biggest prize of the day, had not only made it four winners in the first four races, but had also been followed up the hill by three other Irish horses. Then, after the next race, Davy Russell returned to the winner's enclosure on Carlito Brigante with yet another tricolour draped around his shoulders. Unbelievably, a filly from Co Kildare named What A Charm proceeded to land a gamble in the sixth. And that left only the bumper, a race historically dominated by Irish raiders.

In the event, the prize went to Somerset. And it was even possible to discover a bleak portent in the story of the winner, Cheltenian, who had made his debut for a small Irish stable at Punchestown last autumn. He then went to the sales, where Philip Hobbs produced a patron prepared to fork out £210,000 to bring the youngster to Britain.

There are fewer people in Ireland nowadays willing or able to lavish that kind of money on self-indulgence. But the fact is that a record Festival already seems guaranteed for the Irish. In 2006, when the Celtic Tiger was at its most voracious, they had 10 winners. This time, at the halfway stage, they already have nine.

On the whole they have not been well fancied. The roar of the winner's enclosure yesterday tended to lack the gluttonous edge that can only be traced to fiscal consequence. Even so, if just for a few hours, all the problems back home no longer seemed so chronic. They have not gone away, of course, any more than Cleeve Hill had evaporated behind the fog that shrouded one of the Turf's great panoramas all through the day. But here, at least, were half a dozen footholds on the sheer cliffs of recession.

Over the past couple of years, an industry that had gladly ridden the tide of prosperity has been dashed against the rocks by the turbulence in Ireland's economy. But there are far better reasons than money for the nation's traditional influence on this sport, and its greatest carnival. The pastures of the Curragh have not suddenly withered; nor have generations of horse lore been forgotten overnight. Times may be hard for Irish trainers and breeders, but some of their resources are timeless. They have the horsemen for this apocalypse.

Sizing Europe himself, after all, owed his success in the Sportingbet Queen Mother Champion Chase to the masterly supervision of two of the youngest in their trades in Henry de Bromhead and Andrew Lynch.

With that in mind, it is worth noting a very practical explanation for this sudden bloom in the wastelands. For the cycles of jump racing are more forgiving than those of the Flat. Horses bred for steeplechasing need several years to achieve physical maturity. That process can patiently span boom and bust, fat years and lean. Many of their compatriots may be panicking but Irish racing professionals can fall back on an instinctive forbearance.

They need luck, just like everyone else. And the fact is that connections of Sizing Europe took a curiously circuitous route to this summit. It was only when a white Christmas caused the postponement of the King George VI Chase that they sat down and agreed to start playing to the horse's proven strengths. He had come here last year and won the novice championship over two miles but Alan Potts, his owner, got it into his head to try and turn him into a Gold Cup horse.

Sizing Europe was duly sent over three miles for his first two starts of the season, and it was only the prospect of another rough crossing to Kempton that prompted the drop in distance at Leopardstown last time. He did not run a terribly encouraging trial, but proved a different horse on the much better going here yesterday.

Always handy under Lynch, he took over at the water jump – where Mad Max's retreat quickly extinguished hopes that throat surgery could prompt a revival – and was never headed thereafter. Several rivals were pressing hard on the approach to two out, including two who had divided the three previous runnings between them. But Master Minded already looked in big trouble, a couple of lengths down in third, when making a shuddering blunder at that fence; and that left only Big Zeb to stand up for the old guard.

He had caught the eye through the race, but could not sustain his challenge from the last as Sizing Europe stayed on to win by five lengths. It was another four back to Captain Cee Bee, who saw off Golden Silver for third. Best of the home team was Somersby, who kept on at one pace after losing momentum three out.

De Bromhead, his head swimming, turned to a stranger in the stand and asked him if he had really just seen Sizing Europe win the Champion Chase. The previous day he had won the cross-country race with Sizing Australia, and he has good prospects with Loosen My Load in the opener today.

No matter how many races he wins here in years to come, however, he will never cherish another horse more than this one. When Potts came to his Co Waterford yard, he had saddled just three winners in his rookie season.

Three years ago, he was suddenly training the hot favourite for the Champion Hurdle. With two to jump, Sizing Europe was the only horse still on the bridle, but he weakened so abruptly that he staggered over the line stone last. Similarly tame finishes would follow. The horse seemed doomed never to discover fulfilment. Anyone who had suggested that he could still storm home first at consecutive Festivals would have seemed laughably gullible, even by the heedless standards of the gold rush that consumed the nation back then. By the same token then, perhaps it is not too fanciful to treat him now as a legitimate template for regeneration.

Champion Chase result

1. Sizing Europe 10-1

2. Big Zeb 3-1

3. Captain Cee Bee 14-1

Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Life and Style
food + drink
Voices
John Profumo and his wife Valerie Robson in 1959
voicesWard committed no crime, and the truth is still being covered up, writes Geoffrey Robertson QC
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
news... you won't believe how bad their skills were
News
people

Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright and Mark Wright
tvStrictly goes head-to-head with Apprentice
Sport
footballPremier League preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's clashes
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas