A NUMBER of high-profile potential Cheltenham candidates are due to line up at Punchestown on Sunday with Sizing Europe the headline act.
Henry de Bromhead's former Champion Chase winner tops a field of seven for the Boylesports.com Tied Cottage Chase, with the trainer hoping the weather doesn't derail his plans.
The sponsors have made Sizing Europe their 1/4 favourite and it's 10/1 bar with Henry de Bromhead stating yesterday: "Sizing Europe did a piece of work on the beach this morning and I'm glad to say that he is in great form.
"He came out of the race at Christmas well so we are looking forward to the Tied Cottage on Sunday. It was a key race in our campaign last year so we are sticking to that plan."
Moscow Flyer and Big Zeb are included on the recent Tied Cottage roll of honour and it will be intriguing to see how Sizing Europe bounces back from his more workmanlike than expected victory at Leopardstown over Christmas.
With three entries in the race, Willie Mullins appears to hold the strongest hand aside from the favourite as Blazing Tempo, Call The Police and Twinlight are all in the mix for the champion trainer.
Included is John Ryan's Foildubh, who was pulled up in the early stages of the Kinloch Brae at Thurles recently after almost being brought down by a faller, and he is a previous course winner, while Imperial Shabra and Kylebeg Krystle will go in search of minor honours.
Leon Blanche of Boylesports commented: "Boylesports are delighted to sponsor the Tied Cottage yet again and what an achievement it would be if Sizing Europe could win back-to-back races and join Moscow Flyer in winning the race twice."
Also on Sunday, Don Cossack (above) and Ned Buntline could prove a fascinating clash in the Racing UK Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle.
The two exciting novices are joined in the 2m contest by Mags Mullins' Mumbo Jumbo, Henry de Bromhead's Starkie and the Willie Mullins trio of Mozoltov, Reine Angevine and Twigline.
Also on Sunday's card is the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase and the Grade C Michael Fitzpatrick Memorial Grand National Trial.
There was an upbeat report from racecourse manager Richie Galway who said: "The track is currently heavy and has coped with the rain well. Given the unsettled forecast for the remainder of the week conditions will certainly be testing."
However, despite the testing conditions Punchestown don't envisage any problems at the track and the point-to-point scheduled to take place on the inside track at Punchestown is also likely to be given the green light for Saturday.
Tomorrow's scheduled meeting at Thurles was abandoned due to the weather conditions and the track will now stage a two-day meeting on February 13th and 14th with the opening day being all hurdles and the second day forming an all-chase card.
Fairyhouse are holding out hope that their full card will get the go ahead for Saturday although there are grave concerns over the prospect of the chases being unaffected.