Reigning 2 Mile Champion Chaser Big Zeb (IRE) confirmed his wellbeing with a thoroughly professional performance in the Grade 1 Dial A Bet Chase, beating his regular rival Golden Silver by just under two lengths. The champion jumped brilliantly but tired a bit close home as a result of being held up in his work due to the inclement weather. If he appears in Cheltenham in March in the same form he looks the one they all have to beat. Big Zeb, who was voted ‘Horse of the Year’ at the 2010 Horse Racing Ireland Awards, is by Coolmore stallion Oscar who is having a fantastic season courtesy of such other stars as Peddlers Cross (IRE) and Oscar Whiskey (IRE), both leading contenders for this years Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Another leading Champion Hurdle contender is the Willie Mullins trained Hurricane Fly (IRE) who delivered a very stylish performance in the Grade 1 Festival Hurdle, beating old rival Solwhit by an easy two and a half lengths. So far only beaten twice over hurdles the son of Montjeu looks to have all the credentials of a champion hurdler and the race is building up to be a fascinating contest. Trained by Willie Mullins for George Creighton, Hurricane Fly was sold as a yearling in Goffs for €65,000 when consigned by the Irish National Stud. He began his racing career in France before being bought by current connections and I think one could safely say he is currently the best hurdler in training in Ireland.
The remaining Grade 1 race over the holiday period was the Fort Leney Novice Chase and this was won in gritty fashion by Bostons Angel (IRE). It was a second Grade 1 victory for trainer Jessica Harrington in just over a week following the success of Oscars Well (IRE) at Navan (another Grade 1 winner for Oscar) the previous week. Boston’s Angel is by Winged Love who stands at Tullyraine House Stud in Northern Ireland and is also the sire of Grade 1 winners Twist Magic and Cherub. Another son of Winged Love, Magnanimity (IRE) was a gutsy winner of the Grade 2 Killiney Novice Chase at Leopardstown on Sunday.