The 12 year-old defied age and indifferent form in the Grade 1 Boylesports.com Champion Chase to possibly sign off with an eight top level triumph at a track where he has shone over the years.
His previous two runs were his worst over fences, fourth at Leopardstown over Christmas and the same place again in the Champion Chase led some to believe that his was a fading star, a leading light of brighter days taking a final curtain call. Champions, however, are forged in furnaces whose heat mere mortals could not withstand and Sizing Europe had let trainer Henry de Bromhead know that he was in no mood to fade gently into the night.
Andrew Lynch has ridden Sizing Europe in 26 chases and together they have scaled racing’s peaks. Although others had lost faith, the Meath man was not about to abandon belief in his ally.
“He ran a tremendous race at Cheltenham and led them turning in but I knew today from halfway down the back he was running away and winging his fences, it was just amazing. He has been tremendous for my career, ever since I got on him in his novice days, we have never been out of the first four. To come back year after year and even as a 12 year old to win a Grade 1, not too many of them can do that. I’d say he definitely the best horse I’ve ever ridden,” he remarked.
If yesterday is to be the last time Sizing Europe races, then it could not have been a more fitting conclusion to a remarkable career. Five years ago Sizing Europe came to Punchestown’s May meeting to face a fence for the first time in public and that day he showed the world jumping came as naturally to him as breathing. In his glorious pomp, an Arkle Chase and Cheltenham’s Champion Chase, along with victory in this contest two years ago, were monuments to his class, but the 12 year old never lacked for courage. That was never more evident than when he harried Sprinter Sacre in last year’s renewal of the race.
For Ann Potts, who along with her husband Alan, sealed the deal to buy Sizing Europe from Hugh Bleahen in a country pub, watching Sizing Europe make his way around the 2m track he knows so well was impossible to bear.
“It’s absolutely wonderful, really the best thing that could have happened today. Alan always said he thought he could do it but I was doubtful after watching him at Cheltenham, but he has proved that he is wonderful, the horse of a lifetime.
“Everything about him is brilliant and we absolutely love him. This is as good as any win because he is 12 years old and therefore we didn’t expect him to run as well as he did. Andrew rode a fabulous race on him and it was just thrilling. I have to say I didn’t actually watch the race, I kept walking because he is so important. He is one of the first horses we ever bought and we’ll probably never have a horse quite like him again,” she reflected.
Whispers of retirement swirled on the evening breeze but with the old warrior’s fire undimmed, that decision will be left for another day. In the fading spring sun, it was time to celebrate.