Stable star Sizing Europe returns to favourite distance

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ARKLE and Champion Chase winner Sizing Europe returns to his optimum distance of two miles as the Irish hero bids to land the prestigious Tingle Creek Chase today.

Won in the past by the likes of Moscow Flyer, Henry de Bromhead’s stable star tired markedly on his comeback in the three-mile JNWine.com Champion Chase at Down Royal.

“He had a fairly tough race at Down Royal when running a blinder last time out but his weight is good and he seems in good form at home so we’re happy to let him take his chance,” said De Bromhead.

“As we’ve always maintained, he’s a much better horse on better ground so we’ll be hoping the rain stays away.”

Champion trainer Paul Nicholls is seeking a seventh consecutive victory in Sandown’s Grade One speed test over two miles, but his hopes were dashed last night when Tataniano was ruled out with a season-ending injury.

Ruby Walsh switches to the stable’s second-string Kauto Stone. A half-brother to the incomparable Kauto Star, the 2006 Tingle Creek winner, this exciting five-year-old will need soft going to prosper.

The potential dark horse is the Philip Hobbs-trained Wishfull Thinking who returns to two miles after weakening to finish wearily in the Paddy Power Gold Cup.

“It’s a good race, he’s in good order, so we’ll see how he gets on,” said Hobbs.

He was speaking before Fingal Bay, the season’s top novice hurdler, maintained his unbeaten record at Sandown under Richard Johnson.

The Challow Hurdle at Newbury on New Year’s Eve is the next target for a horse who the jockey rates as a top-class steeplechaser in the making.

n The in-form partnership of jockey Dougie Costello and trainer Nicky Richards will hope to strike with chasing debutant Realt Mor in today’s One Man Novices Chase at Wetherby that honours the charismatic winner of the 1998 Queen Mother Champion Chase.

Local hopes rest with Malton trainer Malcolm Jefferson’s Mac Aeda who is looking to make amends after falling at Carlisle.

n Hoof It, co-owned by golfer Lee Westwood, sports agent Chubby Chandler and Sheriff Hutton trainer Mick Easterby, was crowned handicapper of the year at the Racehorse Owners Association awards. Horse of the year was the unbeaten Frankel while Newbury was named as the best racecourse in 2011.

There was some consolation for York – it has become the first track to win a coveted national prize at the Institute of Groundsmanship awards.

n Barak O’Barma’s time is surely coming after taking another step forward with a third-placed finish in the extended two-mile handicap hurdle at Sandown.

Pat Phelan’s gelding had shown a trace of promise at Plumpton in January 2010, but his return from a long lay-off at the Sussex course last month did not augur so well.

But he is now handicapped and kept going well enough in a reasonable heat, suggesting his shrewd trainer will be able to find him a winning opportunity.