Sizing Europe set for Arkle assignment

Henry de Bromhead is happy with Sizing Europe ahead of the Irish Independent Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham tomorrow.

Henry de Bromhead is happy with Sizing Europe ahead of the Irish Independent Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham tomorrow.

The eight-year-old goes to the Festival with an unbeaten record in four runs over fences, culminating in a Grade One contest at Leopardstown on Boxing Day.

“We’re pleased with how he travelled over and he seemed in great form this morning,” said the County Waterford trainer.

“It looks a really good and competitive race. Hopefully he’ll run well and give a good account of himself.

“The ground is absolutely lovely, they’ve done a great job on it.”

Sizing Europe is one of the six-strong Irish contingent among a final field of 12 declared for the two-mile novice chase championship.

Willie Mullins runs both Quiscover Fontaine and Sports Line, his brother Tom has Fosters Cross while Eddie Harty’s Captain Cee Bee and Osana complete their team.

The home brigade is headed by Henrietta Knight’s Somersby and Nicky Henderson’s pair of Mad Max and Riverside Theatre.

Emma Lavelle’s Kangaroo Court, Paul Nicholls’ Woolcombe Folly and I’m Delilah from Ferdy Murphy’s stable round out the field.

Riverside Theatre missed the Festival last year but ran a fine race at Punchestown, finishing third to Hurricane Fly.

He has won both his starts over fences to date and arrives at Prestbury Park with strong claims.

Henderson also runs Mad Max but he is well aware of the threat posed by the likely favourite, Captain Cee Bee.

“All has gone well with him. He is a very athletic horse and he loves being fresh,” said Henderson.

“It is a fine line between being fit and being fresh but when he is fresh he is very good and good ground will suit him well.

“I know JP McManus and all of the boys are sweet on Captain Cee Bee but we are competitive and I wouldn’t throw Mad Max out. We will make use of him and I can see him running well.”

Champion trainer Paul Nicholls runs Woolcombe Folly, winner of his last five races but only one of those has been over fences.

He was the unfortunate horse that ruled Sam Thomas out of the Festival after a fall when schooling last week.

“I have had this race in mind since Doncaster, although he does lack a bit of experience,” said Nicholls.

“He jumped great at Doncaster and if the ground stays dry then he would have an outside chance.

“He has won his last five but we have all got to go to beat Captain Cee Bee. He won the Supreme Novices’ and looks rock solid and I could see Riverside Theatre going close too.”

Actor Jimmy Nesbitt, who heads the syndicate that owns Riverside Theatre, admits to feeling very nervous ahead of the race.

“I saw him a little bit of week (ago) and he looked very ready. We’re very happy and I’m very excited,” he told At The Races.

“He’s only run over fences twice so we don’t know how he will react to such a strong field.

“He did it well first time at Newbury and then won the Wayward Lad even though the ground was a bit sticky.

“It’s a very competitive race and I just hope he gets round OK. There’s a lot of excitement and I’ve never been as nervous in my life.

“I’m so blessed, this is the first horse I’ve really been involved in. I know how lucky I’ve been.”

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