Never mind the form book, it was the faith book that was the best-thumbed volume here yesterday. Belief in a horse, belief in a rider and, with it, victory that was the sweeter for the justification. The Irish-trained eight-year-old Sizing Europe put the nightmare of his 2008 Champion Hurdle defeat behind him to take the season's top prize for emerging two-mile chasing talent, the Irish Independent Arkle Trophy.
On that day two years ago, Sizing Europe was favourite for the hurdlers' crown and was galloping all over his rivals approaching the penultimate obstacle. There he strained a back ligament on landing and went from confidently cruising supreme athlete to virtual cripple in a matter of strides.
Yesterday set the record straight. Sizing Europe's powerful charge remained intact this time. Left in front after Mad Max blundered two fences from home he had enough left up the climb to the finish to repel Somersby and Osana. "It was not a good day the last time we were here," said his trainer, Co Waterford-based Henry de Bromhead. "I wouldn't go as far as to say that experience has haunted me but we learnt a lot from it. We once used to leave no stone unturned, now we leave no pebble unturned."
Sizing Europe, now unbeaten in all four of his starts over fences, has a new jockey this season, the hitherto unheralded Andrew Lynch, given his chance by De Bromhead after he turned professional after a hardly sparkling amateur career. Yesterday's was his first win at Cheltenham, and the race he chose, which commemorates the best chaser to emerge from the Emerald (or any other) Isle, could hardly be more appropriate. Lynch was born in the same village as Arkle, in Co Meath. "He's a grand rider," said De Bromhead, "and gets on so well with the horse. There was never any question of his being replaced by someone with more big-time experience."
Lynch let Sizing Europe enjoy himself and express his exuberant talent up front, matching strides and leaps with Mad Max. "Just incredible," said Lynch. "Last time out, at Leopardstown at Christmas, he was being too careful, got in deep, but this was back to his old self. I was maybe left in front too soon then the other horse made his mistake, but I just let him stride on."
Faith was to the fore again in the case of Chief Dan George, another to dig deep to fend off all comers up the famous hill. The 10-year-old once won a Grade One hurdle and proved the adage about class being permanent as he took the three-mile handicap chase under another of the weighing room's lesser lights, Paddy Aspell. "We never thought the horse was a back number," said his trainer, James Moffatt. "He's taken time to adjust to fences and the drying ground was perfect for him."
Nina Carberry, was unable to rack up her hat-trick in the cross-country chase, finishing only fifth on favourite Garde Champetre as A New Story provided another bookies' benefit at 25-1. But in the mares' finale Quevega, the 6-4 favourite, came to the punters' rescue, scooting clear to take the contest for the second time.Reuse content