ZEB BUILDS A FORTRESS; IRISH RACING LATEST.
BIG ZEB completed a hat-trick of wins in the Grade 2 Fortria Chase at Navan yesterday, to the delight of trainer Colm Murphy.
Making his seasonal debut and ridden for the first time by Robert Power (deputising for Barry Geraghty), the former two-mile champion jumped superbly, tracking Forpadydeplasterer, before edging ahead after the third last fence.
And the 10-year-old stayed on strongly up the Navan hill, when pressed, to beat Noble Prince (receiving 5lb) by two lengths with Forpadydeplaster only a head away third.
Murphy was "thrilled to bits" by the performance adding: "They didn't go hard enough for him. But he jumped great and got too close to Pady at every fence that Robbie had to keep taking him back.
"That was a dream start for him. And I'm relieved to have it out of the way. It should leave him spot-on for Christmas. The Paddy Power (Grade 1 Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase at Leopardstown) is his Cheltenham this year. And, if that goes well, we'll take the next step."
wer Dialwn) is nd, e The Queen Mother Champion Chase, which he won in 2010 before being dethroned by Sizing Europe last March, remains Big Zeb's longer-term target.
And he's 6/1 with Paddy Power and Boylesports to regain that crown in March.
Big Zeb was the second leg y to h. eg rphy initiated of a big-race double for Murphy, initiated when classy mare Voler La Vedette made a successful return to action in the Grade 2 Lismullen Hurdle.
Confidently handled by Andrew Lynch, the mare was in front three from home before beating Full Funded readily by more than three lengths.
Murphy said: "She's stronger and easier to train this year. For a mare that never works well, she's been fresh and going well at home. She's in the Hatton's Grace and will have another crack at a Grade 1. She gets two and a half miles well."
Earlier Noel Meade saddled first and second in the Grade 3 For Auction Novice Hurdle, victory going to the gambled-on 13/8 favourite Il Fenominoi (Davy Russell) at the expense of Paul Carberry-trained Dylan Ross.
Meade rates both horses highly and confirmed the Grade 1 Royal Bond Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse in three weeks as the winner's immediate target.
Il Fenomeno is owned by Michael O'Leary's Gigginstown House Stud, successful again when the Tony Martin-trained Bog Warrior made a spectacular start over fences, making all to win the beginners chase impressively and completing a double for Russell. Bog Warrior might be aimed at the Grade 1 Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse next month.
And Noel Meade completed his own double when Formidableopponent, a double when beaten odds-on favourite on his debut at Punchestown, made amends when justifying 4.6 favouritism, under Nina Carberry, in the bumper. The J P McManus-owned four-year-old will now go hurdling.
The McManus colours were in the winner's we enclosure on the double after maiden hurdle action at Limerick, thanks to odds-on favourites Jenari (trained by Jessica Harrington) and enc after at Lim favou Jessi af JWhatwillwecallher (Robert Tyner).
Limerick stages further action today and, on a modest card, Bundle Of Fun is napped to land the concluding handicap chase for in-form Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins while Wilde Wit Pleasure, third to Donnas Palm at Wexford, might prove best in the Askeaton Beginners Chase.
THRILLED TO BITS Trainer Colm Murphy HAT-TRICK HERO Big Zeb