Past Winners » Big Zeb


(Written 7th March)

Big Zeb is well over-priced for me now that William Hill have pushed him out to 9/1. Colm Murphy’s horse was no better than a 5/1 shot back in November, and his chance hasn’t suddenly deteriorated by that much. Okay, so he was disappointing in the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown, but you can very easily put a line through that run. Murphy kind of knew before the race that he shouldn’t really be running in it, it just came too quickly after his seasonal debut at Navan. The trainer decided to allow him run, he was favourite and he figured why not, but he kicked himself afterwards.

He got him home, freshened him up and got him back to the Tied Cottage Chase at Punchestown at the end of January, where he was really impressive in beating Golden Silver. Admittedly Golden Silver was a bit lack-lustre there, he jumped to his left and he didn’t seem to give his running, but Big Zeb was very good, he travelled well and he jumped well and he won as easily as he liked. There were six and a half weeks between the Tied Cottage Chase and the Champion Chase, and that is just about spot on.

Colm Murphy reports the horse to be in great form and Barry Geraghty likes him quite a bit. It is significant that the jockey got off Forpadydeplasterer and moved a couple of mountains to get off Petit Robin, who now goes for the Ryanair Chase, to ride Big Zeb, and Geraghty will be a big asset in the Champion Chase.

The world has gone Master Minded mad again since he won the Game Spirit Chase doing handsprings, but that really wasn’t a good race, Voy Por Ustedes didn’t give his true running – he may never do so again, the possibility of blinkers in the Ryanair Chase looking like a potential last gasp effort – Fix The Rib didn’t jump well away from Ascot and going left-handed, and Mahogany Blaze chased Master Minded home. While he has obviously recovered from whatever was ailing him, his fractured rib or whatever, he is not invincible. He looked imperious in winning the Champion Chase in 2008, but he wasn’t so impressive last season – Badsworth Boy is the only horse in history to win three Champion Chases – and Big Zeb would probably have beaten him if he hadn’t made such a bad mistake at the last fence at Punchestown last April.

Big Zeb’s jumping is a bit of a worry, and he had a mother and father of a fall in the Champion Chase last year. You have to hope that he doesn’t remember that. But his jumping up to that point was good, and he can be a very good jumper on his day. I’m not sure that Kalahari King should be shorter than him in the betting, true he was good at Doncaster, but that was a handicap against handicappers, and he may not come on by as much as they thought he would before that race. Also, common consensus is that he would have beaten Forpadydeplasterer in the Arkle last year if he hadn’t made such a bad mistake at the fourth last. I had a look at last year’s Arkle again last night, and I’m not sure about that one either. It wasn’t that bad a mistake, and he closed on Forpady on the run-in as if he was going to pass him, but Tom Cooper’s gelding pulled out more and, even if the winning line had been another 100 yards further up the hill, I doubt that Kalahari King would have got there.

Forpady is a player, now that he is back on track, but Barry Geraghty seems to think that he just doesn’t have the pace for a Champion Chase, and the fact that he wants to ride Big Zeb instead is significant. There is no doubting Big Zeb’s pace and, with a clear round, he has a real chance of winning this. Also, with Master Minded pushing out the win odds, 9/4 about Big Zeb finishing in the first three is worth having as part of the each-way bet.

BIG ZEB WON (ADV 9/1, SP 10/1)