Zaarito primed for a recovery mission

COLM Murphy is keeping his fingers crossed Zaarito can bounce back to form in the Naas Directors Plate Novice Chase at Naas on Sunday.

The eight-year-old was beaten just a neck by Arkle Trophy favourite Captain Cee Bee at Naas back in December and then bolted up at Leopardstown over Christmas.

However, he has suffered two heavy falls on his two subsequent starts and Murphy is just hoping for a clear round this weekend.

“He’s in good form and obviously after his last couple of races the main thing we want is a clear round, anything after that would be a bonus,” said Murphy.

“Touch wood, he’s schooled well and I think he’s actually a good jumper, he just seems to lose concentration now and again.

“He’s not entered at Cheltenham but if all goes to plan this weekend, we’ll probably look at the Powers Gold Cup at Fairyhouse.”

Murphy is also pleased with the progress of his two leading Cheltenham Festival candidates, Voler La Vedette and Big Zeb, who will line up in the David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle and the Queen Mother Champion Chase respectively.

“Voler La Vedette is in good nick and worked very well earlier in the week,” Murphy continued.

“I suppose you’d have to say on last year’s performance Quevega is the one to beat, but we’re very happy with our mare and she’ll probably have one more good piece of work on Wednesday and that should leave her right.

“Big Zeb is fine and fingers crossed he’ll head over to Cheltenham with a good chance.

“Barry (Geraghty) came down and gave him a school in the week and we’ll just keep him ticking over between now and Cheltenham and we’ll see what happens.

“I’m still waiting for confirmation that Barry will be available to ride at Cheltenham but I haven’t heard he won’t be able to yet.

“I suppose if Nicky Henderson runs his horse (Petit Robin) he’ll have to ride that, but we’ll cross that bridge if and when we come to it.”

Meanwhile Dessie Hughes is looking forward to seeing how his Grade One-winning chaser Rare Bob performs in the Lucan Racing Leinster National.

The eight-year-old looked sure to go on to big things when winning the Champion Novice Chase at last year’s Punchestown Festival but was last of five on his only appearance since at Fairyhouse in January.

That said, the gelding certainly caught the eye when working with Ryanair Chase-bound stablemate Schindlers Hunt at Leopardstown on Sunday and Hughes is hopeful his charge could yet make his mark at one of the spring Festivals.

“He’s obviously giving a lot of weight away which will make it tough but he’s a fair horse and we’re looking forward to running him again,” said Hughes.

“Everyone saw him work after racing at Leopardstown last weekend and he did school and work very well, so we’ll just see what happens on Sunday.

“It’s unfortunate Cheltenham has come too soon for him as we really needed to get another run into him, but he’s had his problems this year.

“We had him hobdayed earlier in the season and it has taken a while for us to get him back, but he is a very good horse.

“If all goes well on Sunday, I’d be looking at Aintree and Punchestown for him.”

At the other end of the handicap for Sunday’s contest is Len Whitmore’s Troytown Chase runner-up Casey Supreme, but the trainer admits the drying conditions are a major concern.

“He’s in good form but the ground is drying out all the time and that would lessen his chance,” said Whitmore.

“The ground is the key to him and he really needs it testing, so we’ll just have to see how he gets on.

“With Rare Bob running we’re out of the handicap as well which isn’t ideal and although Rare Bob has top-weight, he’s still the one to beat.”

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