Zeb another big hit for punters
Two Irish-trained winners bring Amnesty for raiders
The punters were left absolutely reeling yet again yesterday as the bookmakers stormed to a 2-0 lead after what have been a costly couple of days for favourite backers, with Master Minded the latest hotpot overturned as Big Zeb fulfilled his potential to the max.
Master Minded went on the trail of history, bidding to win a third consecutive Queen Mother Champion Chase, but he failed to turn up as the horse who had wowed us in the previous two years and had to settle for a disappointing fourth place.
It was an Irish one-two as Big Zeb held off the gallant Forpadydeplasterer. Colm Murphy enjoyed his third winner at the prestigious meeting following the previous efforts of Brave Inca as the nine-year-old put in one of the best displays (if not the best display) of his chasing career.
Murphy was clearly over the moon with the winner who fell in the race when fancied last season.
The Wexford handler said: "Barry (Geraghty) said before last year's race that he felt he had a serious chance of beating Master Minded and I thought he was mad, but who knows what would have happened if he stood up.
"It was in the manner that he did it that was so great today, the way that he just hacked down the hill. Everything went right for him and he jumped so well. He was just capable of making a stupid little mistake at times and we were always learning more about him."
Geraghty opted to ride Big Zeb over fellow 10/1 chance Forpadydeplasterer, who, of course, he won last year's Arkle on at the Festival.
"I was always pretty happy I was on the right horse before the race and I knew Master Minded was good when he won at Newbury. But when he beat Mahogany Blaze, who was a 100/1 chance today, he really should have beaten him by a furlong.
"I wouldn't say Big Zeb is as good as Moscow Flyer, but this was certainly as good a performance as Moscow put in."
Irish eyes were yet again smiling following the RSA Chase as both the Nicky Henderson duo of Long Run and Punchestowns were overturned by previous Festival winner Weapon's Amnesty who made the journey worthwhile for trainer Charles Byrnes.
Carrying the colours of Ryanair supremo Michael O'Leary's Gigginstown Stud, last year's Albert Bartlett winner showed his love affair for the Gloucester undulations by running out a convincing winner in the hands of Davy Russell.
Weapon's Amnesty kept his best form for the Festival and connections were happy he was as good as ever this week.
"It was an unbelievable round of jumping, but we had by far the most experienced horse coming here," said Byrnes. "He has already contested two competitive Grade Ones, so you could almost call him a handicapper against novices.
"Nicky said that they (Long Run and Punchestowns) were two of the best chasers he has trained so I had to respect what he was saying with his record. I believe in 'horses for courses' and this horse likes Cheltenham. I am shocked at the ease of his win, but I knew he would improve from Leopardstown, simply because he's a course winner and also the better ground."
Geraghty completed a quick-fire double when landing the Coral Cup on the Nicky Henderson-trained Spirit River who outdid the 80/1 chance Tullamore Dew by four-and-a-half lengths to leave the Meath pilot leading the champion jockey race for the week.
The Champion Bumper was a lead balloon job for the Irish as none of the raiding contingent got within a parish of the 40/1 winner Cue Card, who was eight lengths clear of Al Ferof and 16 lengths too good for best of the Irish, Frawley.