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Zeb treble focus

FORMER Queen Mother Champion Chase winner Big Zeb looks set to make his seasonal debut in the Fortria Chase at Navan for a third consecutive year this Sunday.

The 10-year-old was second in this year's Cheltenham two-miler but subsequently won the Punchestown equivalent and will now begin this season's campaign in search of a third win in the Grade Two contest.

Only a possible five runners can take him on, but at the entry stage it certainly has the makings of a tougher contest than in the previous two years, with the likes of Forpadydeplasterer and Noble Prince the main two dangers on ratings, while Psycho, former Grade One winner Trafford Lad and James Lambe's Predateur complete the field.


Paul Nolan's Cheltenham Festival winner Noble Prince looks set to be absent on Sunday, though, as the Wexford trainer appears to be focusing on sending the seven-year-old back to the scene of his finest hour for Saturday's Paddy Power Gold Cup.

Nolan is still mulling over whether or not to run Noble Prince in the prestigious handicap at Cheltenham or wait for Navan, but yesterday he did admit to "leaning towards Cheltenham".

Paul Nicholls' decision to run top weight Poquelin is likely to be a big factor in Nolan's thinking as he was against running his horse with top weight.

Nolan's fellow Wexford-based trainer, Colm Murphy, is looking forward to a raid on Navan, though, as along with Big Zeb he is due to run his classy filly Voler La Vedette.

Voler La Vedette is joined by the likes of Mikael D'Haguenet and Mourad for Willie Mullins, while Karabak could have his first start for Eddie Harty, and the talented Rigour Back Bob and Pineau De Re are also engaged.

Of Big Zeb, Murphy said: "He's in super form and I am very happy with him.

"This race has been the plan for a while, we brought him away to Navan and to Leopardstown in the last few weeks and he went well on both occasions.

"He will come on a fair bit for the run and I just hope the ground won't be too soft. We'll map his campaign after Sunday then."

Murphy is hopeful that the weight allowance Voler La Vedette will be in receipt of against her rivals in the Lismullen Hurdle will play a big factor.

"She's summered well," explained Murphy. "She seems in great order and I couldn't be happier with her.

"She's in the same boat as Big Zeb as she's as ready as we can get her, but she will also improve plenty for her first run. Getting seven pounds from all the boys will be a help."