SIZING Europe has lost just once in four starts at Cheltenham and can maintain that enviable record with another victory in the sportingbet.com Queen Mother Champion Chase, the feature on day two of the Festival.
That bare statistic barely does justice to the achievements of Sizing Europe as two of those victories came in championship events, with the 2010 Arkle and last year’s Champion Chase on his CV.
He reversed form with old adversary Big Zeb in this race last term, thoroughly impressing as he utilised his extra reserves of stamina to power five lengths clear at the line and supplement his Arkle victory of 2010.
While he went on to suffer a surprise defeat at the hands of Big Zeb at Punchestown, it was a touch surprising that trainer Henry de Bromhead wanted to try the three-mile route once again at Down Royal on his seasonal bow.
He has always maintained the 10-year-old would stay the trip but just as Kauto Star proved too strong in 2010, Quito De La Roque saw it out much the better as Sizing Europe found the petrol gauge on empty after the last.
Reverting to two miles in the Tingle Creek though, he demonstrated just how good he is over the minimum trip, with his fencing improving for the quicker pace.
An eight-length victor at Sandown back in December, he has since claimed the scalp of Big Zeb once again by 15 lengths at Punchestown and it will be a major shock if he does not triumph again back at one of his favourite tracks, with the good ground only further enhancing his claims.
Grands Crus is another worthy market leader in the RSA Chase, arriving at Prestbury Park with an unblemished record over fences.
He chased Big Buck’s all the way in staying hurdles last term and has transferred that level of form to fences, running away on his chasing bow here last autumn.
Subsequently a winner at Newbury, Grands Crus then plundered the Feltham at Kempton in convincing style and even though he did not get his intended prep run, David Pipe will have left no stone unturned in the build-up to his big moment.
Victory for Simonsig would hardly be a surprise in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle, while Teaforthree and JT McNamara look an irresistible combination in the opening Diamond Jubilee National Hunt Chase.