Big Zeb's Champion Chase aspirations were realigned courtesy of a highly impressive performance at Punchestown on Sunday.
Colm Murphy's charge put behind him a disappointing display in the Tingle Creek to emphatically claim the Grade Two Punchestown Pavilion Tied Cottage Chase.
A cosy comeback win at Navan meant he was sent off favourite for December's Sandown showdown, but he could only finish a well-beaten fourth behind Twist Magic.
Big Zeb travelled with much more zest on this occasion, however, and jumped accurately throughout.
Barry Geraghty oozed confidence turning for home and although odds-on favourite Golden Silver tried hard in second, Big Zeb found another gear between the final two fences to score by seven lengths.
Paddy Power now make him 5-1 from 8-1 for the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, while William Hill still offer 7-1.
Murphy said: ‘We'll freshen him up and then it's on to Cheltenham, it's nice to be going over there on the back of that.
‘We probably shouldn't have sent him over to the Tingle Creek - I blame myself for that.
‘His jumping was brilliant and we've done a lot of schooling with him at home.’
Luska Lad won the Grade Two Festival Party Pack Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle for trainer John Hanlon.
The 7-2 shot banished a fall at Navan on his last start with a really enthusiastic display under Andrew McNamara.
Although 4-5 favourite Saludos appeared to be travelling the strongest at the head of affairs, especially after a rousing jump at the second-last, Luska Lad refused to wilt.
A powerful leap at the final flight handed the advantage to McNamara, who maintained a forceful gallop to score by four and a half lengths.
However, connections are unlikely to head to Cheltenham in March.
Hanlon said: ‘Andrew (McNamara) said to me afterwards that this horse is two stone better going this way (right-handed)
‘If that's the way Andrew thinks, I'd have thought we'd miss Cheltenham.
‘We'll probably give him a breather and come back here for the (Punchestown) Festival.
‘He'll make a lovely chaser - he's a great jumper.’
Ted and Ruby Walsh teamed up to take the Star Best For Racing Coverage Handicap Chase with Seabass.
The 11-8 favourite put behind him an unfortunate fall at Navan four days ago to justify 11-8 favouritism in the manner of a determined horse.
Ruby Walsh was back on the scoresheet when Blackstairmountain (2-1) eased home in the www.punchestown.com Maiden Hurdle.
Inoma James carried a feather weight to an emphatic victory in the Grand National Trial, after which trainer Derek Barry said: ‘He will go for the Midlands National at Uttoxeter next - he loves jumping.’
Another Jewel ended Enda Bolger's winning run in the Glenfarclas PP Hogan Memorial Cross Country Chase, while Badgerlaw struck for the Jessica Harrington operation in the Watch Racing UK on Chorus Handicap Hurdle.