The mystery of Sizing Europe’s disappointing performance in Tuesday’s Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham was solved next morning when he was found to be lame.

The Henry de Bromhead trained six-year-old, Waterford’s big hope for the festival, went off the hot 2/1 favourite but trailed in second last of the 15 runners having been virtually pulled up by jockey Andrew McNamara after the final hurdle.

He appeared to be going easy in a share of the lead approaching the second last, but a downcast McNamara explained afterwards that he then seemed to lose his action. “His stride changed going to the second last and even more so on the run to the last, so I eased him down”, he said.

Despite looking sound immediately after the race, a problem showed up on Wednesday. “He is intermittently lame”, said de Bromhead, who trains at Knockeen. “You can see clearly when trotting that he’s lame in his first three or four steps and then he’s fine.

“He was so disappointing on Tuesday and it is great to find there was something wrong. It was an inexplicable performance”.

A vet at Cheltenham diagnosed a sprain of the sacroiliac joint in the back and, due home last (Thursday) night, Sizing is due to be examined today by the trainer’s own vet. “Hopefully he will come right and, if so, Punchestown is definitely on the cards”, said the handler who is entitled to be sorely aggrieved over his stroke of bad luck. “Your heart sinks when these things happen, but life goes on”, he remarked philosophically.

At least the injury to his stable star doesn’t appear to be serious.

Indicative of how well fancied he was for the race, eventually won by Alan King’s Katchit at 10/1, there were reported wagers of €65,000 and €25,000 after he opened at 11/4.