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Murphy's Roque to roll for Gold

Colm Murphy has revealed that his prolific chaser Quito De La Roque is on schedule to return to action at next month's Punchestown Festival.

A Grade One winner at the Kildare gathering last year, Quito De La Roque had looked a leading contender for this year's Cheltenham Gold Cup.

However, after conquering Sizing Europe at Down Royal in November, the Gigginstown Stud-owned eight- year-old was well held when third behind Synchronised and Rubi Light in the Lexus Chase.

A sinus problem subsequently forced Murphy to rule Quito De La Roque out of Cheltenham, but Synchronised's famous Gold Cup victory at least showed his Leopardstown form in a good light and Murphy reported yesterday that the horse has been pleasing him at home.

"Quito De La Roque will run in thetote.com Punchestown Gold Cup," he said. "Thankfully, he is back in good form and seems very well at the moment. He had a sinus problem, and it would have been a rush to make Cheltenham."

With Rubi Light likely to line out in the three-mile Grade One as well, a rematch between the two best second-season staying chasers in the country is on the cards.

Philip Hobbs has also declared that Captain Chris, winner of the two-mile novices' Grade One at Punchestown in 2011 and fourth in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham two weeks ago, is an intended runner.

Hobbs added that his exciting novice hurdler Fingal Bay, which missed Cheltenham due to a hamstring injury, could likewise run at Punchestown.

Murphy, meanwhile, has Big Zeb and Voler La Vedette -- both gallant in their respective Prestbury Park defeats -- to look forward to in two of the Festival's other marquee Grade Ones.

"Big Zeb will run in the Boylesports.com Champion Chase," he said of the 11-year-old winner of last year's two-mile contest.

"We were a bit disappointed with his run at Cheltenham (third in Champion Chase), but, saying that, he has probably run his race.

"All going well, Voler La Vedette will go for the Ladbrokes.com World Series Hurdle.

"She has come out of her Cheltenham run (second in World Hurdle) exceptionally well and we're hoping that, if she runs as big a race again, she will put it up to Quevega."

Irish Independent