Zeb's master class
Hotpot backers thwarted again as Geraghty lands Big one
just two more Irish-trained winners yesterday, but they were significant ones at the highest level, as Big Zeb came of age on English soil and Weapon's Amnesty demonstrated his liking for the punishing Cheltenham circuit.
Five successes for the visiting contingent at the half-way mark of the festival is not a bad return and the raiders built solidly on Tuesday's victories by classy pair Sizing Europe and Quevega.
The manner in which Big Zeb and Forpadydeplasterer combined to put the odds-on defending champion Master Minded to the sword in the Queen Mother Champion Chase after Weapon's Amnesty had crushed Long Run in the RSA Chase was just what was required to mark St Patrick's Day.
You knew exactly what Big Zeb's belated day in the sun meant to Colm Murphy as he let his guard down in the aftermath of the performance which the Wexford handler always believed his charge had in him. Just as when teak-tough Brave Inca made it two festival wins in the 2006 Champion Hurdle, the trainer literally jumped with joy before being inundated with congratulations by well-wishers.
"It's just great to be able to come back here with a fellow like this to win another championship race. We've been learning all year about him but he's a proper horse now," Murphy said.
"It was the manner that he did it that was so great today -- everything went right and he jumped very well. It's hard to be confident but we knew he was as well as we ever had him and, having got so close to Master Minded at Punchestown last year, we knew he was beatable.
"This horse has matured a lot and grown into a man."
Barry Geraghty could have ridden Tom Cooper's gallant runner-up Forpadydeplasterer, on which he landed the Irish Independent Arkle Trophy over the course and distance 12 months ago, but made the right choice.
The in-form Meath pilot said: "I was always pretty happy I was on the right horse before the race. I wouldn't say he's as good a horse as Moscow Flyer but today was certainly as good a performance as Moscow put in."
While similar targets at Aintree or Punchestown beckon next month for the second horse, Weapon's Amnesty might not be seen again until later this year says Limerick trainer, Charles Byrnes.
"He has to go left-handed so I doubt you will see him again this season. It was an unbelievable round of jumping but we had by far the most experienced horse coming here. Davy Russell was brilliant, switching him off completely, and it's a great team to have a winner for."