WITH the Cheltenham Festival now 36 days away, the Sun Racing team will be bringing you their ‘Festival 50’ every day between now and 10 March.
We will salute the Prestbury Park heroes that made us fall in love with the Festival, all the way until the ‘Cheltenham roar’ signals that the wait is finally over.
Number 36: Big Zeb
What a cracking two-miler Big Zeb was for Ireland.
A multiple Grade 1 winner in his homeland, he came alive at Cheltenham in the spring.
The first of four appearances in the Champion Chase came in 2009, but he came to grief four out when still trapping along.
He returned 12 months later seeking to right those wrongs in a superb renewal, featuring the likes of Master Minded, who had swept all before him for two years, Twist Magic, Well Chief and Kalahari King.
And he fairly tanked through the race under Barry Geraghty, who let the handbrake off rounding the turn for home.
The result was immediate as he left his nearest rival Forpadydeplasterer for dead, soared over the last and cleared away up the hill to the delight of the Irish legions on course. There was a new King in town.
It was a scintillating performance and a great result for his trainer Colm Murphy, who took on the big guys and came out on top.
He lost nothing in defeat when second to Sizing Europe the following year, and he again hit the frame when third in 2012 behind Finian’s Rainbow.
No doubt this stalwart of the champion chase division was underrated, and when the sun shone and the ground was sound at Prestbury Park, there were few who were as good.