Big Zeb irons out jumping problems to bolster his Festival hopes; Winner now as short as 5-1 for Champion after impressive win.
Jockey Barry Geraghty described the success as "a strong schooling session" for the nine-year-old, who was cut to 5-1 for the Champion Chase by Betfred, Stan James and Paddy Power, the same price as Twist Magic, and behind only Master Minded.
The winner's jumping hs ad let him down several times in the past, but throughout the 2m trip yesterday it was faultless and a fine leap at the final fence sealed a victory which was his from before two out bar a fals l.
The success clearly pleased trainer Colm Murphy, who said: "I was delighted with that performance, and it will be nice taking him back to Cheltenham on the back of a display like that.
"We've done plenty of schooling with him and freshened him up for today. We were lucky, too, that our horses hardly missed a beat during the bad weather."
Murphy added: "Big Zeb had a few little problems which we think we have ironed out. After he disappointed in the Tingle Creek Chase, we discovered he had a ringbone problem on his off-foreleg. We gave him a couple of treatments and he seems fine now.
"I'ms not saying the problem was the only reason for his moderate showing at Sandown - I blame myself for not waiting a bit longer before running him again after his win at Navan - but it can't have helped.
"We have just over six weeks to go until Cheltenham and this horse is best when fresh and bouncing. Spring seems to be his time of year."
Big Zeb will head straight for Cheltenham and will have the Kerrygold Champion Chase, in which he ran Master Minded to a head last year after blundering at the final fence, back at Punchestown as his end-of-season target.
Sent to the front four out after Mansony - winner of the Tied Cottage last year - had made the running, 5-4 shot Big Zeb ran on strongly to beat 9-10 favourite Golden Silver, who has now been beaten on all four of his visits to Punchestown and was slow over the fourth and fifth fences. Mansony was half a length back in third.
Ruby Walsh, who was riding Golden Silver for only the second time, said of theWillie Mullins-trained runnerup: "He was a bit deliberate at the fourth and fifth, and you can't afford to give that sort of advantage away." The Markets, page 18
Big Zeb takes the last before running out a seven-length winner of the Tied Cottage Chase
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|Publication:||The Racing Post (London, England)|
|Date:||Feb 1, 2010|
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