Europe Bids for Cottage Repeat
(Healy Racing Photos)
Despite officially turning 11 at the start of last month, Henry de Bromhead's pride and joy has appeared better than ever in winning his three starts this season and will be long odds-on to land the Tied Cottage for the second successive year this weekend.
Andrew Lynch has guided one of Ireland's best-loved chasers to each of his six Grade One triumphs over fences, including glorious displays in the Arkle Trophy and the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham, and he is hoping he will add to his tally on Sunday.
Lynch said: "Every time you get on him it's always a good day and hopefully everything goes to plan. You can't not look forward to riding a horse like him and obviously, if everything goes well, he's going to take a bit of beating hopefully."
Should he win as expected at Punchestown, talk will soon switch to which Cheltenham Festival race Sizing Europe should be aimed for.
He is entered in the Champion Chase, the Ryanair Chase and the Cheltenham Gold Cup but Lynch believes no decision will be made until the likely ground conditions at Prestbury Park become clear.
"We'll get this race out of the way before we start talking about Cheltenham," said the jockey. Obviously the ground is going to be a big factor in where he goes."
Willie Mullins' star mare Blazing Tempo is the second highest-rated horse in the field for the Grade Two feature, but is still 21lb wrong at the weights with Sizing Europe.
The line-up is completed by the consistent Foildubh, Imperial Shabra and Kylebeg Krystle.
Sandown have abandoned their scheduled hurdle races on Saturday and will now stage an all-chase card.