Belfast Telegraph

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Big names in Queen Mother picture

Previous winners Sizing Europe and Big Zeb feature among 19 entries for the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham on March 14.

Sizing Europe followed up his Arkle Trophy success of 2010 with a brilliant victory in last season's Champion Chase and is set to return to Prestbury Park to defend his crown for Henry de Bromhead.

Big Zeb fell in the two-mile speed test in 2009, was victorious 12 months later and was second to Sizing Europe last time around, and both horses have staked their claim for this season's renewal with Grade One victories already in the bag.

The pick of the home challengers is Finian's Rainbow, winner of the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton over Christmas and also entered in the Gold Cup. His trainer, Nicky Henderson, will bid for his first victory in the race since Remittance Man struck gold in 1992.

Paul Nicholls has landed the prestigious prize with Call Equiname (1999), Azertyuiop (2004) and Master Minded twice (2008 and 2009). This year he has a strong team, with the most interesting undoubtedly his exciting novice Al Ferof.

The grey will also be given an entry in the Arkle, but connections have admitted taking on the best in this division at the Festival is not being ruled out. Another notable Nicholls entry is Kauto Star's half-brother, Kauto Stone.

Donald McCain's Peddlers Cross, second-favourite for the Arkle, is another novice handed the Champion Chase option, though McCain confirmed that the entry is precautionary and the Arkle remains his chief Festival target.

The handler said: "It's just a precautionary entry in the Queen Mother. We haven't made any plans for his next run yet. He's just started back cantering so we'll see how he is and go from there."


From Belfast Telegraph