Europe team attempt to end season on a high

SIZING Europe will attempt to end the campaign on a high in the Rabobank Champion Hurdle at Punchestown today.

The 2008 AIG Europe Champion Hurdle winner has had several niggly problems in the past few months, and has not been seen since finishing fifth when favourite for the December Festival Hurdle at Leopardstown over Christmas.

However, his trainer Henry de Bromhead is happy with him again and expects an improved performance.

“He’s just had various problems, but he seems great now and I think he’ll be all right,” said the County Waterford handler.

“He’s working well, he seems to be in good form, so hopefully he’ll run well.

“We’d prefer better ground, but maybe over two miles the softer ground will bring his stamina into play and he won Greatwood (at Cheltenham) on heavy.”

Noel Meade is worried about the ground for his two runners, Muirhead and Jered, who were fifth and eighth respectively behind Punjabi in the Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.

“Muirhead seems in good form, but I’m a bit concerned about the ground being heavy as it is as he would like it better,” said the Navan trainer.

“The same would apply to Jered. He would prefer better ground, but it’s the same for them all and they’ll take their chance.”

Sabrina Harty is also concerned about the testing conditions for Won In The Dark.

“He’s in great order, but the sad thing is the ground is really soft and I don’t know if he’ll handle it,” said the County Kildare handler.

“They watered the course last week, which didn’t help his cause either.

“We’ll see what the weather does and there is fresh ground but there aren’t many options left for him. It’s a shame as he seems better than ever”

All eyes will be on Punjabi, who bids to follow up his Cheltenham triumph by taking this prize for the second successive year.

“He’s going great,” said trainer Nicky Henderson.

“It has been quite wet over here at times this week, but at least it hasn’t always fallen on the racecourse which is a good thing.”

Willie Mullins is looking forward to seeing how Quevega, winner of the David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle over two and a half miles at Cheltenham, fares over the shorter distance.

“It will be interesting to see how she handles going back to two miles. The ground is going to be a nice help to her tomorrow,” said the County Carlow trainer.

Mullins believes his other runner, Ebaziyan, will do well to be placed.

“He’s finding it hard to reach his best form and I don’t think the ground will suit him, but we’ll see. Hopefully he’ll get placed as there’s good prize-money,” the trainer added.

Trainer Dessie Hughes reports 2004 winner Hardy Eustace to be in top shape.

Arguably his best performance this season was when he won the Maplewood Developments Hurdle over this course and distance in November.

“He seems in great form, but it’s terrible ground. Having said that, it was terrible ground when he won that Grade One there in November,” said the County Kildare trainer.

Rabobank Champion Hurdle: Cashmans bet - 9/4 Quevega, 5/2 Punjabi, 7/2 Solwhit, 7 Muirhead, 10 Ebaziyan, 12 Sizing Europe, 14 Jered, 33 Hardy Eustace, Won In The Dark

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