Big Zeb’s bid for a fourth successive victory of the season came up well short when the popular veteran was easily brushed aside in his latest head-to-head encounter with arch rival Sizing Europe in the Grade 2 Boylesports.com Tied Cottage Chase at Punchestown on February 5, writes Elliot Slater.
Sent off an Even money second-favourite behind his old foe, (who started a 9/10 market leader), Big Zeb came into the Punchestown event on the back of three straight successes including on his previous outing where he proved too good for the smart Noble Prince in the Grade 1 Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas, running on strongly to beat his much younger rival by a length-and-a-quarter.
His form so far this term gave plenty of reasons for optimism that the 11-year-old gelding, (winner of the 2010 Queen Mother Champion Chase), would give Sizing Europe, the current champion, plenty to think about as Henry de Bromhead’s charge continued his build-up to the defence of his title at Cheltenham next month and anyone following the ante-post Cheltenham betting odds should remember this.
But in the end the race failed to provide the titanic duel most neutral observers had looked forward to as Sizing Europe made the running under Andrew Lynch before quickening away from Big Zeb who got within a length going to the second last, leaving Colm Murphy’s stable standard bearer toiling 15-lengths behind in his wake.
Better ground at Cheltenham might well give Big Zeb an opportunity to make more of a race of it with Sizing Europe, but bookmakers are not convinced and have pushed the old horse out to 7/1 in places, whilst slashing the odds on Sizing Europe retaining his crown from a pre-race 9/4 to a current best offer of 5/4 favourite.