Paddy Power Column: Mouth watering duel between Zib and Sizing

I really am getting excited as the new Jumps season clicks into gear with first, Paddy Power Day at Fontwell on Friday, and then just a week later the Paddy Power Meeting at Cheltenham.

I really am getting excited as the new Jumps season clicks into gear with first, Paddy Power Day at Fontwell on Friday, and then just a week later the Paddy Power Meeting at Cheltenham.

The former features exciting chaser Hunt Ball together with zany owner Anthony Knott, who I had the pleasure of meeting on English Derby day at Epsom and let me assure you that his reputation is not unjustified!

The apple of his eye improved from a handicap mark of 69 to an amazing 157 and ‘Knotty’ is talking about a Cheltenham Gold Cup challenge with Hunt Ball starting off his campaign in the Paddy Power Gold Cup with his current price at 13-2.

This Sunday features one of my favourites, Big Zeb, in the Fortria Chase at Navan and Colm Murphy’s superstar will be attempting to win this race for a fourth year running.

There are no prices available at time of writing and I wasn’t going to tip him as I thought his price might be prohibitively short until I read today that Sizing Europe, who missed Saturday’s Jnwine.com Champion Chase due to a change in going, is now a possible to lock horns.

That completely changes the complexion of the race, in my opinion, and instead I’m going to have to opt for Sizing Europe, who I didn’t fancy at Down Royal because of the three miles but two is a vastly different kettle of fish.

I’ve got a few reasons for going for Sizing. First, he has already had a run this season, easily scoring in the Gowran Park Champion Chase, and also time is probably not on either horse’s side, but with Sizing being a year younger than Big Zeb at 11, that could be a distinct advantage this season.

Lastly the pair met in the Punchestown Champion Chase in April with Sizing 20 lengths clear of his old adversary over this trip and I don’t see any real reason why Big Zeb should reverse the placings, even though he’s unbeaten at Navan, on a relatively similar surface to Punchestown. Gordon Elliott’s string are in fine fettle at present and if the Co Meath trainer unleashes Roi Du Mee in Thursday’s John Meagher Memorial Chase at Thurles, I think he’ll take a lot of beating.

The Lavirco gelding kept on well to master Magnanimity, who could reoppose, by five lengths at Punchestown last month and he seemed to absolutely relish the heavy ground that was on offer that day.

This event is over a furlong less but I think that is neither here nor there over around two and three-quarter miles and even though this recent win was his first for over a year, he has some decent form in the book.

He beat Forpadydeplasterer in the same Punchestown race last year, but probably his best effort was on his next outing when chasing Kauto Stone home by six and a half lengths at Down Royal. The winner of course returned to that venue on Saturday when he beat First Lieutenant a length in the Grade 1 Jnwine.com Champion Chase.

I wasn’t impressed by Newcastle’s draw at Liverpool other than the actual result as apart from Yohan Cabaye’s brilliant hit, they didn’t have many chances. This Sunday they take on West Ham at home and I think that the away side could steal the points, although I’m going to go for a draw at 9-4.

Things looked bright for the Toon when they won their opening match against Spurs but since then they’ve won twice in nine Premiership games with less than convincing successes over Norwich and West Brom. The Hammers will be confident after a draw at Upton Park against Manchester City

Selections

Thursday Thurles 2.25pm Roi Du Mee

Sunday Navan 2.50pm Sizing Europe

Sunday 3pm Newcastle to draw with West Ham