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Published: 12/12/2011

It will all be about Big Zeb at Leopardstown on December 27 as Colm Murphy’s crack two-mile chaser continues his preparations for another tilt at the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

The strapping ten year-old lost his Cheltenham crown to rival Sizing Europe in 2011 however he did go on to gain some degree of revenge and compensation by turning the tables on Henry De Bromhead’s horse at Navan.

Regarded as one of the best jumpers in training, Big Zeb is now well and truly reaching the veteran stages of his career.

Nevertheless, his ability to still see out two miles epitomises his class and pace and he can definitely enjoy at least one more season of glory at Grade One level before potentially heading into retirement.

Sizing Europe will not re-oppose Big Zeb over the Christmas period after his triumph in the Tingle Creek at Sandown.

Big Zeb’s main danger will instead come in the shape of Willie Mullins’s Golden Silver who his himself becoming a real stalwart of the two mile chase division in Ireland.

The nine-year old finished a sound fourth at the Cheltenham Festival and possesses bags of ability when track and conditions are to suit.

He has however finished behind Big Zeb on a few occasions and it is hard to see how he can now reverse that form with improvement fairly unlikely at his age.

Aside from the aforementioned pair, only noble Prince can really harbour any genuine aspirations of taking this prize and going on to further Grade One success later in the campaign.

At seven years of age, Paul Nolan’s gelding has a sizeable amount of time on his side and has already recorded some excellent form in the book – predominantly with his success in the Jewson Novices Chase at Cheltenham where he beat Phillip Hobbs’s highly regarded Wishful Thinking.

He was beaten by Big Zeb at Navan in November but will have needed the run as most of Nolan’s horses tend to do.

Should his jumping have improved, noble Prince can definitely push the headline act and put himself in amongst the big boys at Leopardstown and also on a regular basis.

His general ante-post odds of around 5/1 certainly look appealing and almost an each-way safety net certainty.

Forpaddytheplasterer’s best races definitely look very much behind him whilst Tranquil Sea will have to produce a career best in this sphere to come out on top.

Loosen My Load and Scotsirish meanwhile would have to improve a significant amount just to figure.

Big Zeb should make it two from two this season and considering the lack of strength and depth of the potential field, it is quite conceivable that he could go off odds-on, so the ante-post even money should be snapped up.

Big Zeb is also currently a best price of 7/1 to regain his Champion Chase crown – and that figure could also drop should he complete this Christmas assignment successfully.


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