Peter Casey has stressed that the Irish Form Book Fortria Chase at Navan on Sunday is a starting point for his flagship horse Flemenstar.
The County Meath trainer is hoping the seven-year-old is fit enough to do himself justice in the Grade Two contest, in which he will meet Big Zeb, winner of this race for the last three years.
Casey is happy to give Flemenstar his seasonal debut on the same card as 12 months ago, when he was runner-up to Bog Warrior, with this year's prolific winner Baily Green back in third.
Flemenstar went the rest of the season unbeaten in five races, culminating in the Powers Gold Cup at Fairyhouse in April.
"We started him off in the beginners chase here last year when he was second to Bog Warrior. It's great to get him back on the track. This is just the start of the season," said Casey.
"He's as far as you'd want to have him at the moment anyway, but maybe we would like him a bit more forward. He's not been back with us long. We didn't get him back until quite late. The owner kept him longer at home this year. He's in good form, not a bother on him, and we'll see how we go."
Big Zeb has been a tremendous servant to Colm Murphy's stable, winning a host of major prizes topped by the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham in March 2010.
However, he needs to bounce back from a disappointing final run of the last campaign when he trailed home 20 lengths behind Sizing Europe in third place in Punchestown's Champion Chase, a race he had won 12 months earlier.
His rider Robbie Power told At The Races: "He's shown plenty of his old spark. I've been down to give him a pop over fences and he's been working well and his preparation has gone well.
"He's a handy enough horse to get fit. Colm's had him away a couple of times and he's fairly straight. I don't think fitness will be too much of an issue. Flemenstar was a very good novice last season and it looks a very hot race."
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