Henry de Bromhead said it was “50-50” which race Sizing Europe will run in at Cheltenham after he was officially scratched from the Betfred Gold Cup.
The County Waterford trainer had indicated he might do that after his latest success in the Tied Cottage Chase over two miles at Punchestown earlier this month.
The sportingbet.com Queen Mother Champion Chase and the Ryanair Chase remain the two options for the talented 11-year-old.
Sizing Europe is already a dual winner at the Festival, lifting the Arkle Trophy in 2010 and the Champion Chase in 2011 as well as finishing second in the latter event last year.
He has been successful at around two and a half miles, with two of his four victories coming at this trip this season.
“He’s out of the Gold Cup and we’ve put him in the other two for the moment,” said De Bromhead.
“We’ve no idea which race. It’s definitely 50-50 now.
“We are always looking forward to Cheltenham when he’s running. He’s been super.
“He seems in good form, he seems well and we’re happy with him at the moment.”
Grands Crus meanwhile still has the Ladbrokes World Hurdle and Ryanair Chase as his possible Cheltenham Festival targets as the grey recovers from an ulcer problem.
Third in the King George VI Chase after having a breathing operation, the eight-year-old ran poorly once again when pulled up in the Argento Chase at Cheltenham last month.
Trainer David Pipe told his website: “He was given an easy time of things after his race while we tried to get to the bottom of his lacklustre effort and he is now being treated for gastric ulcers.
“He is back on the gallops and looks well in himself so I will need to speak with his owners and decide the plan of action. Tomorrow (Tuesday) there is a forfeit stage for the Gold Cup, Ryanair Chase and World Hurdle and I can inform you that he will be scratched from the Gold Cup but will be left in both the Ryanair Chase and World Hurdle.”
Pipe’s horses ran well all weekend and he confirmed Swing Bowler could be given the option of the Vincent O’Brien County Hurdle after her fine effort behind My Tent Or Yours in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury.
His two Exeter winners, Vieux Lion Rouge and The Liquidator, are in contention for the Champion Bumper, while Broadway Buffalo remains unbeaten after his hurdling debut at Newcastle.
Pipe said of Broadway Buffalo: “His jumping improved as the race went on and by the time they reached the long Newcastle straight he was pinging his hurdles.
“With the right horses coming to the forefront, the way in which he comfortably drew 17 lengths clear of his rivals bodes well for the future.
“He is entered in the Neptune Investment Hurdle and the Albert Bartlett at next month’s Cheltenham Festival.”
A reason for what looked a below-par performance by Puffin Billy at Exeter on Sunday appears to have been revealed, with the smart novice hurdler found to have pus in one of his hooves.
Unbeaten and impressive in four starts prior to a Listed event at the Devon course, Oliver Sherwood’s gelding was sent off the odds-on favourite but proved no match for Melodic Rendezvous and was beaten by nine lengths.
Found to be lame by the Exeter vets, Puffin Billy has entries in the William Hill Supreme and Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdles at Cheltenham.
Sherwood said: “My farrier dug out a whole load of pus from one of his feet (on Monday morning).
“What with the wet weather, it’s like getting a blister and he’ll have two or three quiet days having it poulticed.
“Hopefully he’ll be able to be ridden towards the end of the week.
“I don’t like to have sour grapes, and take nothing away from Melodic Rendezvous, but at least we have some sort of reason for his run.”
Sherwood is not sure whether one of his other Cheltenham prospects, Mischievous Milly, will contest Friday’s Jane Seymour Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at Sandown.
She beat last weekend’s Warwick Grade Two winner Ma Filleule on her most recent run at Taunton.
“I’m loathe to run her on desperate ground over two and a half miles, so I’m not sure I will have made a decision until Thursday morning,” Sherwood said.
“I don’t want to bottom her out.”
Finian’s Rainbow is Nicky Henderson’s representative as the Seven Barrows trainer bids to land Saturday’s Betfair Ascot Chase for the time in a row following the successes of Riverside Theatre. Last year’s Queen Mother and Melling Chase winner will need to perform better than he did on his only appearance so far this season, when last of four behind the reopposing Captain Chris in the Amlin 1965 Chase at the same course in November.
Captain Chris then got to within a neck of winning the King George VI Chase, while fifth-placed Cue Card is in the line-up, with trainer Colin Tizzard hoping his effort over an extended two miles and five furlongs will go a long way to determining his Cheltenham Festival target.
Jonjo O’Neill has dual Ryanair winner Albertas Run among the 11 entries for a first outing of the season, with Somersby another leading horse in the line-up.
Ghizao is Paul Nicholls’ only candidate, with the field completed by Pigeon Island, Astracad, Vino Griego, Big Fella Thanks and Betfred Grand National Trial entry Teaforthree.
Dual winner Silver By Nature features among some fascinating names in the 18 entries for Saturday’s Betfred Grand National Trial at Haydock.
Lucinda Russell’s grey took the 2010 and 2011 renewals but has not been seen since finishing 12th in that year’s Grand National at Aintree.
But among potential rivals are last year’s winner Giles Cross as well as Monbeg Dude and Teaforthree, who fought out a thrilling Welsh National at Chepstow.
Venetia Williams’ Rigadin De Beauchene, who took Warwick’s Classic Chase, will be another leading contender, along with Cannington Brook, winner of the Tommy Whittle Chase at the Lancashire course before Christmas.
Others of interest will be Gary Moore’s lightly-raced Sussex National winner Well Refreshed, Brian Ellison’s stayer Neptune Equester, Viking Blond and Evan Williams’ National hope Cappa Bleu.
Williams has, though, warned last year’s Aintree fourth may well warm up with a run elsewhere.
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