QUEEN MOTHER Champion Chase hero Big Zeb is on course to begin the new winter campaign at Navan next month.
Trainer Colm Murphy is to start his stable star off in the Fortria Chase on November 7, a race he won last autumn.
His target over Christmas is the likely to be the Dial-A-Bet Chase at Leopardstown, rather than the Tingle Creek at Sandown.
He won the Irish feature over Christmas in 2008, but had an unsuccessful trip to England last December when he was only fourth to Twist Magic at the Surrey venue.
“He’s very good, so the plan is to start off in the Fortria, the same as last year, at Navan,” said the Co Wexford handler.
“We couldn’t be happier with him and he’s back in since July.
“It will be a similar plan to last year, but I don’t think he’ll go to Sandown, he’ll go to Leopardstown at Christmas.”
Murphy is looking forward to Voler La Vedette’s reappearance in the Grabel Mares Hurdle at Punchestown today.
The trainer is expecting a bold show from the six-year-old, who took this prize 12 months ago
“She’s done really during the summer and we couldn’t be happier with her,” said Murphy.
“She’ll be better for the run but she should go really well.
“It’s the race she won last year and the conditions suit her so hopefully she’ll give a good account of herself.
“She’s been back in since August. She’s done plenty, but will improve for the run.”
Grade One-winning novice hurdler Muirhead is primed to make his debut over fences in the Dobbins Food Hall Beginners Chase.
Trainer Noel Meade expects the seven-year-old to be ready for the graduation to the bigger obstacles.
Last seen finishing fifth to Hurricane Fly in the Rabobank Champion Hurdle at Punchestown in April, Muirhead takes on six rivals over two and a half miles back at that venue.
“He’s in nice form and I think he’ll like the good ground. He’s been schooling well,” said Meade. “It’s not a bad place to start him off over fences, there aren’t too many horses in it.”
Meanwhile, Meade is praying for rain so he can get a prep run into Pandorama ahead of the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury on November 27.
The Co Meath-based handler has had to scrap plans to give the seven-year-old his first run since last December in the Star Best For Racing Coverage Chase at Punchestown on Thursday because of fast conditions.
“I don’t know where he’ll run first at the moment. He’s not running on Thursday, the ground is far too quick for him,” said Meade.
“He’ll go for the Hennessy if he’s sparking and all goes well in the meantime. That’s the plan.”
A prolific winner over hurdles, Pandorama immediately transferred that form to fences winning all of his three starts to date, including Grade Ones at Fairyhouse and Leopardstown last Christmas.
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