Three and so easy for brilliant Zeb
Published 14/11/2011 | 05:00
Colm Murphy's two big guns, Big Zeb and Voler La Vedette, saw the Wexford trainer steal the show at Navan.
Big Zeb was again the highlight, however, when bravely winning a third consecutive Fortria Chase.
The 2010 Queen Mother Champion Chase winner came up trumps following an absorbing three-way tussle with Noble Prince and Forpadydeplasterer.
The latter, who made most of the running, looked to have nothing more to offer once Big Zeb (2/1) took the lead two out. He did not give in easily, though, while young pretender Noble Prince, sent off the even-money favourite, also put in a strong bid.
But Robbie Power's mount was most determined and got the verdict by two lengths from Noble Prince.
"I'm thrilled to bits. He was very good today. They were never going hard enough for him," said Murphy.
"It's a great way to start him back and it's a relief to get that out of the way. We will keep him ticking over now until Leopardstown at Christmas, which is the plan.
"He is really well in himself and his jumping was very slick today. He will improve plenty for it."
Noble Prince's trainer Paul Nolan said: "He ran well. He was beaten by a better horse, a legend. We don't pick up the same on that ground as we do on better ground."
Voler La Vedette also made a superb start to her campaign in the Lismullen Hurdle. The classy mare came with a smooth run at the third-last to take the lead and score under Andrew Lynch by three and a quarter lengths from Fully Funded, with Mikael D'Haguenet again disappointing in third.
"She will more than likely go for the Hatton's Grace at Fairyhouse in two weeks' time," said Murphy.
"She gets two and a half miles really well and she settled well. Andrew knows her very well. I was a bit worried, as she was going so well at home and she never works well at home."
Il Fenomeno outpointed stablemate Dylan Ross when giving trainer Noel Meade a one-two in the For Auction Novice Hurdle. The 13/8 favourite got on top on the run-in to score by a length and three-quarters.
"I didn't think they would finish first and second. If anything, I thought it might be the other way around," said Meade.
"The winner is a tough horse and Davy (Russell) said he found plenty when he asked him.
"He'll be a contender wherever he goes now and he might go for the Royal Bond. We'll go a different route with Dylan Ross. I know he's a good horse and I think he will get further."
Russell made it a double in the Gigginstown Stud colours on the Tony Martin-trained Bog Warrior (9/4 joint-favourite) in the EBF Beginners' Chase.
Meade also enjoyed a brace when Nina Carberry brought home 4/6 shot Formidableopponent in the bumper.
Boston Bob gave leading British owner Graham Wylie a winner with his first Irish-trained runner when taking the opening maiden hurdle.
Wylie moved the six-year-old to champion trainer Willie Mullins when Howard Johnson was banned for four years in August and the 4/11 favourite, ridden with supreme confidence by Paul Townend, easily brushed aside Six Senses after the final flight.
At Limerick, Robert Tyner's exciting mare Whatwillwecallher -- recently purchased by JP McManus -- got her hurdling career off to the perfect start when easily landing odds of 4/7 in the Winter Wonderland Maiden Hurdle.
Another impressive winner was Jessica Harrington's Jenari, which made no mistake when justifying the prohibitive odds of 2/5 in the Martinstown Opportunity Maiden Hurdle. Pat Mangan sent the favourite to the front just before two out, and the Milan gelding quickly settled the issue to beat Tailors Hill by eight lengths.
Teenage sensation Adrian Heskin got a welcome winner as he guided Joseph Quinn's Kilbane River to victory in the Garryowen Handicap Chase.
Heskin, on the sidelines for nearly six months with a knee problem, gave the 10-year-old a well-judged ride coming through to head 7/2 favourite Conem after the last for a four-and-a quarter-length success.