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Reigning champion Zeb heads list

Last year's winner Big Zeb is part of a strong Irish entry for the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham.

Arkle winners Sizing Europe and Forpadydeplasterer are also in the mix, along with Captain Cee Bee and Golden Silver.

Master Minded heads the home defence and will bid to become only the second chaser to win the premier two-mile event three times after Badsworth Boy. Having won in 2008 and 2009, Master Minded could manage only fourth behind Big Zeb last March.

His trainer Paul Nicholls is chasing a fifth win in the race and could also run Woolcombe Folly, Tataniano and Tchico Polos, while Nicky Henderson has entered Petit Robin, Mad Max and French Opera. Gauvain, Crack Away Jack and Somersby, trained by Henrietta Knight, are also entered.

Knight said: "Somersby gets on well at Cheltenham but I don't know which race he will go for at the moment. He is probably more likely to go for the Ryanair Chase as things stand but it all depends on the ground, which other horses are going for the race and what happens between now and then.

"He is either going to run in the Victor Chandler Chase at Ascot next weekend or he is going to Kempton for a two-and-a-half-mile graduation chase on February 11. We will know more about which Cheltenham race to go for afterwards.

"I was very happy with his run in the Tingle Creek but he seemed to get himself into a bit of a state going out on to the course. He did the same at Aintree last year under Robert Thornton and I think that we will get on him after he's got out on to the course in future. He's not particularly naughty - it's more a case of anxiety.

"Calgary Bay has also been given an entry in the Ryanair but I don't know whether he will go to the Festival. The aim is to go for the Grand National with him and he will probably have one run beforehand, possibly in the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster on January 29."

The likes of Forpadydeplasterer, Barker, Tranquil Sea, Captain Cee Bee and Rare Bob are just a few from a solid Irish contingent for the Ryanair Chase.


From Belfast Telegraph