| 12.7°C Belfast

Big Zeb to Chase glory

Big Zeb will have a maximum of four opponents, including stable companion Don't Be Bitin, when attempting to book his Cheltenham Festival ticket in the Tied Cottage Chase at Punchestown on Sunday.

Colm Murphy's stable star, who enjoyed a short break after his disappointing fourth to Twist Magic in Sandown's Tingle Creek Chase, is being prepared for another crack at the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

A casualty in that contest 12 months ago, Big Zeb went very close to dethroning Master Minded in the Punchestown equivalent last April and Sunday's Grade Two event there has been his target for several weeks.

Murphy avoided the Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase at Leopardstown after Christmas, when Golden Silver cosily defeated Tranquil Sea, to give his charge additional time to recover fully from Sandown.

Now it looks as though Golden Silver, rather than last year's winner Mansony or Conna Castle, will pose the main threat to Big Zeb at the weekend.

The legendary Moscow Flyer, who took the Tied Cottage Chase over the minimum trip in 2003 and 2005, is commemorated by the Grade Two novice hurdle on Sunday's card that went to Mikael D'Haguenet a year ago.

That classy French import's champion trainer Mullins could rely this time on progressive mare Morning Supreme and she may be taken on by Noel Meade's Hollo Ladies, which would also be on a hat-trick mission.

Another smart sort Saludos and Some Present are other notable entrants along with Universal Truth, which landed the bumper 12 months back for Dermot Weld.

The Curragh trainer has his small, select team of winter performers in tremendous heart at the moment and this was reflected yesterday in fresh support for Leopardstown scorers Rite Of Passage and Elegant Concorde.

Both Paddy Power and William Hill reported an amount of pre-Cheltenham money for Sunday's debut hurdles victor Rite Of Passage which is the new Neptune Investment Novices Hurdle favourite with each firm.

Powers go 6/1 from 8/1 for the longer of the two Grade One novice contests and Hills cut the flat-bred gelding three points to 7/1, a point shorter now than original favourite Quel Esprit which was surprisingly beaten on Sunday.

Elegant Concorde is in to 9/1 market leader with Powers for the Weatherbys Champion Bumper and on the 10/1 mark with Hills who have Hidden Universe alongside after his runaway debut victory on Saturday for Weld.

Paddy Power clients likewise showed interest in the Willie Mullins-trained Enterprise Park for the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle, resulting in this fluent Gowran Park and Limerick winner being cut two points to 10/1.

Belfast Telegraph