Monday, February 1, 2010

Zeb making it Big

"If you train hard, you'll not only be hard, you'll be hard to beat." These are words from Herschel Walker, former Heisman Trophy winner and one of American Footballs quickest running backs. Walker was somewhat of an anomaly as he one of the few professional football players to become successful without the use of weight training. Rather than a heavy weight room regimen, Walker used bodyweight exercises, and calisthenics, it was said that rather than lift weights, he would do thousands of pushups and situps every day, all the while maintaining 2% body fat.

As was the case with Mr. Walker, training hard often requires the repetition of difficult tasks, Colm Murphy, trainer of Big Zeb understands the process well. Training at a fundamental level, exists to eliminate weaknesses and improve strengths. The trainer of Champion Hurdle winner, Brave Inca, has another star in his select yard, who requires a little extra training, on his jumping, the horse ? A giant 9 year old gelding - Big Zeb. Despite the geldings early chasing career almost twinning that of the famous Moscow Flyer (who for a long while, like clockwork, unseated his rider every third race), he is on of Irelands best two mile chasers. Big Zebs first ten chases read: F1F2211FF2. He is still a remarkable animal however, twenty starts, fifteen top three placings (7 wins, 7 seconds, 1 third) and four falls. He has only been out of the placings once in his career, in the 2009 Tingle Creek, when 4th and 15/8 favourite.

He has won the Paddy Power Chase, The Swordlestown Chase and the Fotria Chase, amassing a shade over €301,000 in total prize money for owner Patrick Redmond. Big Zeb, now 9, is a massivily proportioned son of Oscar. He has always kept classy company, meeting and losing to Captain Cee Bee in a bumper and beaten by Sizing Europe and Catch Me over hurdles. Yesterday, Big Zeb's odds for the Queen Mother Chase collapsed from 10-1 into 5-1. He is now joint second favourite with Twist Magic behind the 13-8 hat-trick seeking Master Minded. The reason for the disintegration in his odds was a 7 length demolition of Willie Mullins Golden Silver in Punchestown yesterday in the Grade Two Tied Cottage Chase. Big Zeb, ridden by Barry Geraghty put in a crisp display of jumping, the penny has clearly dropped with this horse as regards his jumping, trainer Colm Murphy noted "We have done a lot of schooling with him at home"

On the day, his jumping was accurate and he is a live contender for the Queen Mother, Irelands leading hope many would agree.
Finishing at odds of 5-4, he was second favourite behind the 9-10 favourite Golden Silver (who in 2009, beat Forpadydeplasterer, Watson Lake and Tranquil Sea). Big Zeb was primed for yesterdays race, trainer Colm Murphy deliberately swerved the Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase at Christmas. There was a beautiful fluidity in his jumping yesterday, free from the jumping errors that have marred his efforts previously. He put in some giant leaps around Punchestown yesterday and gained huge yardage leaping over fences in the back straight, Geraghty never reached for his whip once, he gave the gelding a patient, confident ride, it seemed they enjoyed their time around the course, both knowing the ability of the other.

Also, Moscow Flyer won the Tied Cottage in 2003 and 2005, the Flyer won the Queen Mother in the same years, can Big Zeb emulate this success ? You wouldn't write him off , but for now it's back to training and sharpening, repeating and preparing. If he races as well as he can race, Master Minded could be vulnerable as he was last year when only prevailing by a head at odds of 3-10, beating Big Zeb by a head in the Kerrygold Champion Chase.

Colm Murphy has translated the work carried out in his training fields of Wexford into the winners enclosure of Prestbury Park. In Box 30 of his yard where Big Zeb is stationed and self admittedly the best jumper he has ever trained, this could be a very big year for a very Big Zeb.

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