Big Zeb eyes more glory at Leopardstown


It’s four years since Big Zeb first lit up Leopardstown’s Christmas festival with a Grade One Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase success and the veteran star is on target to return to the race with a unique four-timer in his sights.

His old rival Sizing Europe, and perhaps Sir Des Champs, also have the €100,000 two-mile feature among their options over the holiday period. But nothing comes with a better proven record to the party than Big Zeb.

In addition to his 2008 success, Ireland’s Horse of the Year in 2010 has also landed the Dial-A-Bet in the last two seasons, a record that surpasses the great Moscow Flyer. And one that Big Zeb accomplished with three different jockeys.

Colm Murphy’s star will be 12 on January 1st but shows he retains much of his ability and enthusiasm with a second to Flemenstar in the Fortria Chase at Navan a month ago.

‘Great form’

“I stuck him in the Lexus a while ago in case that race cut up but he’s going for the Dial-A-Bet. The top 10 would need to come out of the other race!” joked Murphy yesterday. “He’s in great form and hopefully the ground will be decent. Leopardstown soft is better than anywhere else.”

Murphy will also be in action over the Christmas period with star mare Voler La Vedette who will bid for back-to-back wins in the Woodies Hurdle over three miles – provided ground conditions are not heavy.

Possible plans for a likely wind operation after Voler la Vedette failed to retain her Hatton’s Grace crown earlier in the month were not followed through. Murphy was inclined to blame the very testing conditions at Fairyhouse.

“The vets are satisfied with her so she won’t be going on heavy ground again. She is in the two mile and the three mile and I’d say the three-mile race is more likely,” said the trainer.

Ropey jumping

Quito De La Roque was a disappointment on his last start at Aintree, but will tackle the big guns in the Lexus – a race in which he was third last year. Glam Gerry, a 12 to 1 shot in antepost betting for the lucrative Paddy Power Chase, will also be in action over the holidays.

Glam Gerry justified significant market support in a handicap at last year’s Christmas meeting despite some ropey jumping. Murphy is unconcerned about a repeat of that.

“In fairness that was only his fourth start over fences that day,” he said. “He was off 109 that day so looking back he was a bit of a good thing. And I’d like to think he jumps a lot better now.”

Willie Mullins had said he will leave a call on whether or not Sir Des Champs travels to Kempton on St Stephen’s Day for the King George or stays at home for Leopardstown until as late as possible.

“I am very open-minded at this stage. I wouldn’t be worried about going to Kempton . . . I’ll take a look at what’s going where and how the ground is shaping up and make a decision,” he said.

Hurricane Fly’s festive objective is definitely the Istabraq Hurdle and Mullins said: “He’s going very well at the moment.”