Champagne Fever and Sizing Europe have been confirmed for an early season mid-week clash after both were entered for the Clonmel Oil Chase on Thursday. The pair are the star names on a list of seven entries for the Grade 2 affair which will be run over a trip of 2m4f. The Oil Chase always seems to produce a good winner to follow through the season and if the betting is anything to go by, these two famous horses are set for a classic match.
Sizing Europe is one of the most popular horses in training and won this race back in 2012 for Henry De Bromhead but his advancing years are surely going to count against him sooner rather than later. The 12-year-old continues to show enthusiasm for his racing at the moment though with his win in the PWC Champion Chase last month looking like an excellent one now. He managed to beat subsequent JNwine Champions Chase winner Road To Riches that day despite giving weight away and he will need a similarly impressive run on Thursday to beat the Willie Mullins trained favourite.
Champagne Fever has proven himself to be one of the best horses in training over the past few years with his wins in the Champion Bumper and the Supreme Novices Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival the clear highlights. He blew away the field on both of those occasions although it is perhaps fair to say that his career over fences has been slightly stop start. He has shown glimpses of his talent without winning to often, including in the Arkle last season when he was collared on the line by Western Warhorse, despite having looked the winner for the majority of the trip.
As we have already mentioned, Champagne Fever has won two Festival races over two miles but connections have long said that this is a flexible horse concerning trip. The feeling this season is that he will be sent over further on a consistent basis and that starts with the Clonmel Oil Chase over 2m4f on Thursday afternoon. A good run there could see him go to the King George over 3m on Boxing Day, while the Ryanair Chase or even the Gold Cup could be in his longer term future in the spring.
Champagne Fever is the slight favourite for the race on Thursday and rightly so given the fact he has five years on his side and although he will need the run, you would expect the younger horse to come out on top on most days. Sizing Europe is a solid yardstick though despite his age and it would be no surprise if the former Champion Chaser was on hand to claim another top victory should the favourite run below his best.
Another former Festival winner in Alderwood is also in the field and could be ready to take advantage of any mistakes on Thursday but in truth this should be a match between the top two in the betting. Champagne Fever and Sizing Europe are among the most popular and talked about horses in the sport and the Clonmel Oil Chase on Thursday should tell us a lot more about the immediate future of both of these high class chasers.