15:20 Cheltenham – Sizing Europe to lead home Kauto Stone again
Sizing Europe has dominated the 2m division in the past 12 months and he should be backed at 4/5 to achieve the rare feat of back-to-back victories in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.
Only Master Minded of the last 11 to have attempted the feat has successfully defended his Champion Chase crown, but the failure of the novices of last season to step up in the senior ranks has left Sizing Europe short of serious competition.
Last year’s Arkle runner up Finian’s Rainbow is taking part, while the winner of that race Captain Chris and the other best finishers have been stepped up in trip.
Finian’s Rainbow is 4/1 to win the Champion Chase, but there is the debate that he needs to man up a little bit and knuckle down into a battle.
Sizing Europe’s cause is further enhanced by the fact that he has won at the last two Cheltenham Festivals and unlike many, seems to thrive at the course.
Meanwhile, his victory in the Tingle Creek over Christmas is a good guide to his hopes.
The Sandown race has proved the best pointer to the Champion Chase in recent years, with eight of the last 11 winners at Cheltenham having contested the Tingle Creek.
Kauto Stone has slightly failed to live up to expectations this season but did finish second in the Tingle Creek in his only start over 2m.
Connections toyed with the Ryanair over 2m4f but have since decided that the greater speed test is better suited.
The sibling of Kauto Star looks too big at 16/1, which looks one of the each-way steals of the whole Cheltenham Festival.
Elsewhere, Big Zeb is 4/1 but age appears to have caught up with him, while Wishfull Thinking is 16/1 but is yet to prove that a breathing operation has had a positive impact on racecourse performance.