Wednesday 21 March 2018

Nolan's Prince can use his pace to deny Zeb a Fortria hat-trick

Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

Having won the race with considerable ease on his last two seasonal reappearances, former champion chaser Big Zeb faces an interesting challenge from Noble Prince in tomorrow's Fortria Chase at Navan if he is to complete the hat-trick.

Forpadydeplasterer is one of three others to have been declared for the Grade Two, but Tom Cooper's nine-year-old ran a lifeless race on his return at Punchestown last month.

With Barry Geraghty on duty at Cheltenham, Robbie Power takes the reins on Big Zeb for a first time in the €24,375 contest, as Davy Russell teams up with Noble Prince again after steering the Paul Nolan-trained gelding to a bloodless victory at Naas two weeks ago.

Little was learned about the Jewson Chase winner then, but this will be informative. Big Zeb remains the benchmark for two-mile chasers, and his game revenge on his Cheltenham conqueror Sizing Europe at Punchestown in May confirmed as much.

As ever, Colm Murphy will have him ready for this. Still, as Big Zeb heads towards his 11th birthday, he may be a little vulnerable to a race-fit, younger rival, and the fact he is as short as 8/11 doesn't make the decision to take him on any more difficult.

Noble Prince, while probably more suited by two and a half miles on good ground, is worth keeping on side at around 6/4. Narrowly beaten in a pair of two-mile Grade Ones in heavy conditions last term, his Naas performance over today's trip at least showed him to have not lost any of the pace that he had, so he could just shade this.

Russell might also collect in the beginners' chase on Bog Warrior. It doesn't look an especially strong race and Tony Martin's representative impressed when taking a bumper and maiden hurdle earlier in the year.

The jockeys' championship leader's main employer Gigginstown Stud has plenty other chances at the Meath venue. In the Grade Three For Auction Novice Hurdle, Noel Meade's Dylan Ross is preferred. Paul Carberry's mount readily accounted for Savello at Fairyhouse recently.

Meade and Carberry's Fully Funded is also fancied in the Lismullen Hurdle, an eight-runner Grade Two that features classy campaigners such as Mikael D'Haguenet, Voler La Vedette and Askanna. The French import is one that appeals as still being unexposed.

Tomorrow's nap vote goes the way of Jenari in the opening maiden hurdle at Limerick. Milborough is respected in this, but with Paddy Mangan aboard Jenari's overall profile is more robust.

Mangan, whose sister Jane has serious claims on Luke's Benefit in the lady riders' handicap hurdle, might double up on Ghareer in the two-and-a-half-mile handicap, while Whatwillwecallher and Knockfierna are two mares to consider at the Munster venue.

Irish Independent

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