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

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Baroness Lane-Fox warned that large companies such as have become so powerful that governments and regulators are left behind
techTech giants have left governments and regulators behind
News
Keith Fraser says we should give Isis sympathises free flights to join Isis (AFP)
news
Life and Style
'Prison Architect' players decide the fate of inmates
tech
Life and Style
A picture taken on February 11, 2014 at people walking at sunrise on the Trocadero Esplanade, also known as the Parvis des droits de l'homme (Parvis of Human Rights), in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
News
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
music
Sport
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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: Senior Web Designer / Front End Developer

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast expanding web managem...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor