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Can we profit from Big Zeb stepping up in trip?

Can Big Zeb be a force over further?

Can Zeb handle a longer trip?

During my usual daily trawling of the Internet to keep abreast of all the latest racing news one of my Facebook friends pointed me towards the following article on the www.irishracing.com website –

Zeb could step up in trip

Big Zeb could step up in distance this season as the 2010 Queen Mother Champion Chase hero enters the twilight of his career. 

Trainer Colm Murphy has no concrete plans for the 11-year-old but believes his stable stalwart could still have plenty to offer. 

“He seems like a two-year-old at the moment. He’s in great order and he looks magnificent,” said the County Wexford handler. 

“I think we’ll play it race by race with him. I’m not sure where we’ll start him or whether it will be much the same route as last year. 

“We have the option of going up in trip as well. 

“There are plenty of options and we will see how he is during the year. We’ll let him do the talking.”

This is far from a new phenomenon; we often see horses try longer trips as they progress in the age department. The speed they showed in the early part of their career starts to diminish and is replaced, allegedly, by stamina. To be honest I’ve never been convinced that rule of thumb applies to all horses. Sure there are some runners who as they get older their stamina attributes start to shine through more predominately but there are also a large number who simply have a large drop off in the class stakes and the step up in trip is just a futile attempt by connections to try and recapture past glories.

But what camp does Big Zeb fall into?

I always find a good pointer is to look at the pedigree and, more specifically, the Dosage figures –

BIG ZEB Dosage figures – 4-0-8-8-2 (20+) (22) | DI 0.57 | CD -0.18

The above tells me there is more than enough inherited stamina in his pedigree for him to indeed have an impact over the longer trips. In fact his pedigree is very much one that leans towards a stamina preference, which in itself is unusual for a 2 mile champion.

As I deal with Dosage figures on a regular basis this clearly isn’t a new thought for me. BIG ZEB has obviously appeared in a number of races that I have analysed in-depth and I have always been well aware of the staying potential of the Oscar gelding.

I guess the real question is does he still have the tools to make an impact at the top level?

I’m clearly not suggesting that he is suddenly going to become a live contender for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, I’m more looking at some of the Irish Grade 1 and Grade 2 races that are run over the 2m4f to 3m trips.

It would be quite easy to casually dismiss Colm Murphy’s 11yo as a horse that is past his best. He failed to win, and indeed get competitive in, his last 3 runs and looked to have lost a yard or two at the top end of his game. However, if we take a closer look at his 5 runs from last season I wouldn’t be quite so eager to put him in the ‘past his sell by date’ bin yet.

BIG ZEB had 5 starts last season. He won his first 2 starts in the Grade 2 Fortria Chase and the Grade 1 Dial-A-Bet Chase. That means that only 4 runs ago he was capable of winning a Grade 1 Chase. Granted this was a weak-ish Grade 1 but these type of contests can often be found during the Irish National Hunt season and I’m sure there will be plenty more to be found this season if they step him up to longer distances.

In his next race he was thoroughly outpointed by SIZING EUROPE in a Grade 2 at Punchestown (no shame in that) and then went on to finish a credible 3rd in the Champion Chase at Cheltenham and a slightly less credible 3rd in the Champion Chase at the Punchestown Festival.

Although those last 3 runs do suggest a slight deterioration in his talents I do think a step up in trip will be a worthwhile exercise. Like last season it may be prudent for connections to make his main targets this side of the New year and he has a particularly excellent record when returning after a break of 120 days or more (2-3-1-2-1-1-1-1). An early season, small field Graded contest should be well within his compass.

He is clearly starting to struggle with the younger generation over the minimum trips but his pedigree has always suggested to me that he has stamina to burn over further and if they can find the correct openings for him he can add more Graded races to his CV over 2m4f and further.

So to answer my initial question of ‘Can Zeb handle a longer trip?’… Yes, I do think Zeb can indeed handle a longer trip.

…and ‘Can we profit from Big Zeb stepping up in trip?’…Yes, especially if the majority think he is past his best.

But what do you guys think?

Does BIG ZEB still have the tools to be competitive at the top level stepped up in trip or is he simply a former champion on the downgrade?

As always I’m interested to hear your thoughts 🙂

Ben (NTF)

Original article taken from – http://www.irishracing.com

10 responses to “Can we profit from Big Zeb stepping up in trip?”

  1. Depends on odds of course but his fresh record is good and he lost to Sizing on vile ground and was still 3rd in a Champion Chase. However if he’s 5/2 or something in a 5 runner 2.5 mile race against typical Irish graded chasers on anything but the deepest ground I’m in.

    • Yeah I agree. All price dependant but if we get a decent price whilst he is fresh then he should be worth a punt.

      Cheers – Ben (NTF)

    • Hi Mully

      Yeah he never really suggested he was running on empty at the end so up in trip should ‘in theory’ pose little problem.

      Cheers – Ben (NTF)

  2. With those sorts of dosage figures, he ought to have a crack at the Grand National! 😉

    But seriously, yes, stepping up to 3 miles or so would likely to be the best way to maximise what class he still retains, divert it into his solid jumping ability and away from trying to keep pace with horses half his age.

    Frankly Ben, the sooner we get back to the proper NH season the better. Flat racing and dosages simply don’t provide sufficient profitable angles (based on two years of NTF analysis); whereas over the jumps there are a plethora of opportunities to sort the stayers fom the speedsters.

    • A slipping Handicap mark as well, National could be interesting 😉

      As you say he can only benefit from trying to keep up with horses half his age so 2m4f+ looks a good option. Still looks to have enough of his class left to make an impact over further.

      ..and yes the sooner we get back to the National Hunt stuff the better!!

      Cheers – Ben (NTF)

  3. forget breeding with nat hunt horses hello dandy sire his song grand sire song 6 furlong horse half brother to meninhall sire menelek bred stayers ran in two mile champion red rum waiting to watch scottish nat with my mate when trained by bobby renton with rummy just seven years of age carrying only nine stone eight my mate said he was backing him i rubbished his chance on breeding quorum seven furlong horse dams sire magic red mainly five furlong horse the sire also of red alligator who i backed in nat in pile up year when third and his win following year anyway he put more money on red rum when i said that red ran a good race just out of the places proving he stayed my mate many many years later owned a double two mile champion also won over three miles and second in king george so who knows no room to tell you about me david elsworth dessie 5 pound bet sorry for spelling

    • Thanks for the comment Richard

      Similarly to the flat the breeding doesn’t always work out over jumps, it isn’t an exact science and you do get runners that do not follow the probably breeding traits of the sire.

      Personally I have found numerous profitable angles by analysing the strengths and weaknesses of any given sire.

      Cheers – Ben (NTF)

  4. Always admired Big Zeb and enjoyed his battles with Sizing, but, as an 11yo (going on 12 by the time Cheltenham comes round), he’s obviously in the twilight of his career and it feels like they’re (connections)trying to squeeze as much out of him as possible now, knowing full well he doesn’t have the speed over 2 miles. Nothing in his past runnings suggest that he’ll be greatly benefitted by a longer trip (as was shown by Sizing Europe trying longer distances), and from a punting angle, Big Zeb’s going to short enough in his first race over a longer distance purely on reputation alone. In an ideal world you’d like to ‘wait & see’ after a run, by which time the price will have either gone on him or reflect his inability to travel 2 1/2 or 3 miles.

    Keep up the good work
    Gary Duncan

    • Hi Gary

      Thanks for the comment.

      We must remember that Big Zeb does home some decent bits of form over longer trip from early on in his career so on this occasion I’m not convinced it is simply a case of connections trying to recapture past glories.

      Cheers – Ben (NTF)

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