The most important trial for the Champion Chase at Cheltenham takes place at Punchestownn on Sunday with Big Zeb and Sizing Europe set for a massive clash. The last two winners of the Queen Mother Champion Chase will go head-to-head one more time before heading across the Irish Sea for the big festival race in March. The current champ is of course Sizing Europe who has returned to his favourite trip of two miles after connections flirted with three miles earlier in the season. The Henry De Bromhead horse simply blew a good field away last time out in the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown and he remains the favourite to win the Champion Chase for the second consecutive year. The ground at Punchestown will not be the best with plenty of inclement weather around in Ireland at the moment, the course is described as 'raceable' at the moment but neither horse will want the ground too heavy before Cheltenham.
Big Zeb has been a fantastic servant for Colm Murphy over the past few years and at 11 he looks to have one last chance to win the big Championship races this spring. Zeb ran his best race at the Cheltenham Festival back in 2010 when he won the Champion Chase and despite his advancing year's he has been in fine form this winter. The bookmakers make Big Zeb the favourite for the Tied Cottage Chase this weekend and a good run there will see his Queen Mother price trimmed. It really does look like a two horse race at Punchestown with the top two likely to be fighting it out for the win both this weekend and at Cheltenham next month. The home team face a tough task up against their Irish rivals in the Queen Mother Champion Chase this year with the Nicky Henderson trained Finians Rainbow looking like like the leading contender for the British according to the betting. The duel between Sizing Europe and Big Zeb will be a fascinating one this weekend with punters watching the race closely for clues ahead of the more important clash at Cheltenham next month.