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Welsh meet still looks champion

Thurles became the latest victim of the current cold snap when they gave up hope of Thursday's scheduled fixture going ahead by calling it off yesterday, while the situation is "continually being monitored" at Punchestown ahead of their planned meeting on Saturday afternoon.

Officials at Ffos Las are hopeful of a significant thaw ahead of the Welsh track's biggest meeting of the year due to take place on Saturday.

The meeting features the return of the Welsh Champion Hurdle, which sees the former Irish winner and Cheltenham winner Punjabi head a field of 12 which includes three Irish representatives.

The Noel Meade-trained Donnas Palm, Sabrina Harty's Won In The Dark and De Valira, trained by James Morrissey, could enter the frame if the UK's newest track gets the go-ahead this weekend.

Paddy Power have opened a book on the contest and, unsurprisingly, have made Punjabi the 10/11 favourite, with Alan King's Medermit second favourite at 11/4. Donna Palm is next and best of the Irish trio at 100/30, while it is 25/1 for De Valira and 33/1 for Won In The Dark.

Edward Harty has revealed that he does intend to give his 2008 Supreme Novice Hurdle winner Captain Cee Bee one more run before heading for an assault on the Arkle at Cheltenham in March, however, that run will not be in the Irish equivalent later this month.

Instead, Captain Cee Bee will return to the venue at which he made a winning start to his chasing career and contest a conditions chase at Naas early next month.

Captain Cee Bee left the opinions raging after he crashed out of the Grade One Bord Na Mona With Nature novice chase on St Stephen's Day when about to challenge eventual winner and Arkle favourite Sizing Europe.

Although showing no ill-effects from that final fence exit, Captain Cee Bee enjoyed a brief break since then and will head to Naas on February 6 before going to Cheltenham.

Colm Murphy's Big Zeb is another likely to be seen publicly just the once before heading for the Cotswolds.

Big Zeb was ultra-impressive at Navan before heading to the Tingle Creek at Sandown, a race Murphy is keen to ignore.

Murphy said: "He seems really well in himself and I couldn't be happier with him. Navan probably took more out of him than we thought so he's had a little break, but he's good now and it's onwards and upwards. I'd put a line through his run in the Tingle Creek and hopefully he can build on it."

Big Zeb, who, according to Murphy, performs better fresh, is due to head to Punchestown at the end of this month before taking on Master Minded in the Champion Chase at Cheltenham.

"I presume his next and final run before Cheltenham will be in the Tied Cottage Chase at Punchestown at the end of the month."


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