The respective 2011 and 2010 winners are among 10 horses left in the two-mile feature at the confirmation stage.
Sizing Europe defeated Big Zeb by five lengths 12 months ago to follow up his win in the Arkle Trophy in 2010. And Henry de Bromhead’s stable star got the better of his old rival by 15 lengths in the Tied Cottage Chase at Punchestown last month.
However, Colm Murphy is expecting a better performance from Big Zeb next week.
Willie Mullins has left in the progressive Blazing Tempo, who completed a hat-trick of victories at Fairyhouse, while the Noel Meade-trained Realt Dubh, third in last year’s Arkle Trophy, is the other Irish possible.
Noel Meade has still to decide whether Realt Dubh, who has yet to run this season, goes in the Queen Mother or the Ryanair over five furlongs further.
“Realt Dubh is currently 50-50 to run in either the Queen Mother Champion Chase or the Ryanair Chase. I am not sure yet, but we think he is in great shape and he seems well. We have been really pleased with his work – he worked at Navan on Monday and we were very happy with him,” said Meade.
“He had a bit of a setback before Christmas, which took him some time to get over and it held us up so we haven’t had time to run him.
“We have often wondered if he would get the full two miles and five furlongs around Cheltenham, hence why he is in the Queen Mother Champion Chase as well. We are still very much open minded about it and it would also depend on what is going to run in both races.
“I think better ground suits him better. He is a very decent horse – he won three Grade Ones last season so he is a good horse.”
Davy Russell meanwhile is set for the ride on Noble Prince in the Ryanair Chase next week, if, as expected, Tony McCoy is required to maintain his partnership with dual winner Albertas Run.
McCoy has ridden Albertas Run to victory in the last two renewals of the Ryanair, and also the RSA Chase of 2008. “It’s looking likely that AP will have to ride Albertas Run,” said Nolan, whose horse claimed Jewson Novices’ Chase under McCoy 12 months ago.
“I’d say Davy Russell will ride our lad, if that’s the case. He’s a man in form, he’s ridden a lot of winners this season.
“I believe there’s little rain forecast which is all in our favour and it looks like being better ground than last year.”
Boston Bob and Simonsig are the two standout names in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle next Wednesday, for which 34 horses have stood their ground.
Willie Mullins has still not made his mind up over whether Boston Bob runs in this race over two miles and five furlongs or in the Albert Bartlett next Friday over three miles.