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