COLM Murphy feels Big Zeb is an even better horse this season after he showed guts and class to win the Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase at Leopardstown a third time.
Murphy's 10-year-old held off Noble Prince to add this season's win to those in the 2008 and 2010 renewals.
The 8-11 favourite powered past Noble Prince on the run to the line to score by a length and a quarter in the hands of Robbie Power.
Forpadydeplasterer, who finished third, made the running from Noble Prince, with Golden Silver and Big Zeb together in third and Scotsirish last of the quintet early on.
Tony McCoy made his move on Noble Prince about three fences from home but it was covered by Power on Big Zeb.
The pair jumped the last together, while Forpadydeplasterer made a mistake which put paid to any chance he might have had.
Noble Prince battled hard, but the 2010 Queen Mother Champion Chase victor held all of the aces.
Murphy said: "It was always going to develop into a bit of a sprint from the second-last and, luckily enough, he met the last two spot-on.
"I'm delighted with the manner that he did it in, even at this stage of his career.
"He still has enough pace and he seems to have plenty of his old sparkle.
"I would imagine he would go for the Tied Cottage Chase at Punchestown and we'll see how we go from there.
"He deserves another crack at the Queen Mother Champion Chase.
"He looks better this season. His coat is better and he seems a better horse."
Noble Prince's trainer Paul Nolan said: "The Ryanair Chase is definitely his race at Cheltenham. He probably won't have a run before then."
The Willie Mullins-trained Golden Silver, three times a Grade One scorer, including this race in 2009, suffered a fatal fall.
Cross Appeal (7-1) just held on to claim the Paddy Power Chase for trainer Noel Meade and jockey Paul Carberry.
Leading some way out, Cross Appeal was weary on the run-in but still had three-quarters of a length to spare over Treacle at the line.
Meade said: "We'll probably give him six weeks of rest and the Irish National is something we will have to think about."
Cash And Go (11-2) just denied Dylan Ross in a surprising outcome to the paddypower.com Future Champions Novice Hurdle.
Odds-on favourite Sous Les Cieux set out to make all of the running, but had nothing more to give when challenged approaching the final flight and was only third.
Andrew Lynch, replacing Paul Townend who took a bad fall from Golden Silver in the previous race, brought Cash And Go with a well-timed run to land this Grade One prize by half a length.
"It's not a big surprise as we were very hopeful beforehand," said trainer Edward O'Grady.
"The Supreme Novices' Hurdle looks like his race at Cheltenham."
O'Grady also saddled The Way We Were (9-2) to take the paddypower.com Android App Maiden Hurdle under Tony McCoy for owner JP McManus.
Voler La Vedette is declared to run in Thursday's Istabraq Festival Hurdle over two miles, but is unlikely to take her chance.
Murphy said: "She was in great form and came out of her last race very well. She has loads of options, she could go back to two miles or have another three-mile race.
"She's in tomorrow but that's just an option in case something happened today. I would love to run her, but it probably wouldn't be the right thing to do.
"I had my heart set on the race tomorrow since the last day but after the ground dried up there was no decision.
"She's a different mare this year as she settles so well."
Lynch added: "She settled well today and settled well in her last two races. It was a truly run race. She travelled real well to the turn in and she picked up well."