There is now a real possibility that all of the defending champions of the big four races at the Cheltenham Festival will retain their crowns on the back of an authoritative success from Sizing Europe at Punchestown.
Ladbrokes now offer the best price in the Cheltenham odds of 6/4 on Sizing Europe winning the Queen Mother Champion Chase for the second year in succession following the dominant 16-length success over supposed leading rival Big Zeb.
Sizing Europe is now bidding for a third straight Cheltenham Festival victory having also won the Arkle Chase in 2010 and Cheltenham is considered the course which plays most to his strengths.
This is in comparison to Punchestown, where Sizing Europe had only previously finished among the each-way places on all of his last four visits.
Therefore, it was expected that he may struggle in Ireland again when taking on Big Zeb, but as long as he finished close to his rival, this form would be reversed at Cheltenham.
However, setting off at a faster pace from the tape than previously, Sizing Europe soon had Big Zeb toiling and the race was effectively over swinging into the straight.
As good as Sizing Europe was and despite how well he jumped, there was still the underlying impression that Big Zeb was well below his best and that time may be catching up with him now that he is an 11-year-old.
But Big Zeb remains the leading challenger to Sizing Europe in the Cheltenham betting for the Champion Chase at 4/1, with Finian’s Rainbow next best at 5/1.
Meanwhile, it is now only 19/1 with Ladbrokes that Sizing Europe, Long Run, Big Buck’s and Hurricane Fly all retain their titles.
Big Buck’s is 1/2 to win the Ladbrokes World Hurdle for a fourth time, Hurricane Fly is 4/6 to triumph in the Champion Hurdle and Long Run can be backed at 2/1 to take revenge for his two defeats by Kauto Star this season to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup.