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Big Zeb Power Show

Punchestown the next stop on road to Cheltenham

COLM MURPHY's Big Zeb won his 13th race of an illustrious career when his class prevailed in yesterday’s Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase as he confirmed himself as a main protagonist for the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham.

The 10-year-old was sent off the odds-on favourite and although having to dig deep,

he stayed on gamely after the last to claim the spoils by a length and a half.

The Tied Cottage at Punchestown now looks to be next on the agenda for Big Zeb before he heads across to try and regain his Champion Chase crown at Cheltenham.

That is something Murphy seemed confident was possible, saying: “Even at 10 he has plenty of pace, but he is a much healthier horse this season compared to last, and although he will be 11 this week, he seems better than last year.

“The way the race panned out, it was always going to turn into a sprint after the second last and he just met the last two fences spot on and landed running.”

The Wexford handler added: “I suppose the Tied Cottage is the logical route for him and if we can get him back to Cheltenham in the form of two years ago, he deserves his chance at it (Champion Chase).”

Noel Meade admitted that his initial strong opinions of the handicapper Noel O’Brien’s treatment of Cross Appeal after he finished third in the Troytown turned to relief as the trainer watched his five-year-old win the lucrative Paddy Power Chase yesterday.

Meade felt that the horse’s rise of four pounds from the Navan race in which he made a bad mistake at the last was harsh, but afterwards admitted: “I was extremely annoyed and rang Noel O’Brien to gave out to him for putting him up too much, but as it turned out, if he hadn’t have been as hard on him, he wouldn’t have even got into this race so he was right and wrong!”

Meade hadn’t thought beyond yesterday’s big race, but as a novice and only a five-year-old, he has many avenues to consider.

“He jumped from fence to fence and it was really incredible the way he jumped and he’s only a five-year-old.

“I thought the line was never going to come, but despite being by Cape Cross and out of a dam who is a half-sister to Oratorio, I would say he’ll stay four miles,” Meade said.

“I am very happy to win this and am delighted for John Corr who unfortunately couldn’t make it here today as he has a bit of a cold. I suppose we’d have to think about the Irish National but I really don’t know after today. He will need four to six weeks off after that anyway.”

The Grade One Future Champions Novices Hurdle could have thrown up a horse we will hear an awful lot more about as Cash And Go gave trainer Edward O’Grady and jockey Andrew Lynch another Grade One winner.

Lynch was deputising for the stood down Paul Townend and the pair battled well to deny Dylan Ross by half a length to give O’Grady the result he was expecting.

“That wasn’t a big surprise as we were very hopeful. It worked out like we hoped and I’d doubt you will see him again before the Tuesday of Cheltenham,” he said.

It was fantastic to see Big Zeb win another Grade One yesterday, but unfortunately it was somewhat overshadowed by the fatal fall of Golden Silver.

A multiple graded winner over fences, he was extremely popular at Willie Mullins’ Closutton base and I was lucky enough to have had the pleasure of not only riding him out on a couple of occasions, but also working him one morning in Willie’s.

He’ll be a major loss to the yard, his owner, his trainer and his regular pilot Paul Townend.


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