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Page last updated at 17:22 GMT, Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Big Zeb causes Champion Chase upset at Cheltenham

Cheltenham Festival
Venue: Prestbury Park Date: 16-19 March
Coverage: Live text commentary and daily reports on BBC Sport website & mobiles. Live daily coverage on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra (1300-1400) and 5 live (1400-1600) and television coverage on Channel 4 (1230-1615)

Barry Geraghty on Big Zeb
Big Zeb left favourite Master Minded in his wake

Big Zeb stunned Master Minded in the Queen Mother Champion Chase as favourites continued to be toppled on day two of the Cheltenham Festival.

Master Minded, ridden by Ruby Walsh, had been 4-5 favourite to win the race for the third year in a row.

But 10-1 shot Big Zeb, trained by Colm Murphy and ridden by Barry Geraghty, won Wednesday's feature by six lengths as Master Minded failed to fire.

Walsh later broke Pat Taaffe's record to claim a 26th Festival winner.

But the focus was mainly on Geraghty, who rode two winners in the day. He said of Big Zeb: "It was a great performance and he's jumped well all year."

Tony McCoy, on Forpadydeplasterer, came second in the Queen Mother ahead of Kalahari King.

Walsh never appeared too comfortable and Master Minded was a beaten horse well before the finish, where Kalahari King pushed him back into fourth.

I saw Master Minded coming but I had a lot left when I kicked for home

Barry Geraghty

By contrast, Big Zeb, whose career has been punctuated by a clutch of bad falls, could have been called the winner some way out.

It was a particularly satisfying outcome for Geraghty, who had the choice of the first two home and picked the right one.

He added: "The horse had a good look around after the last and I thought he was going to pull up, but he found plenty when he needed to.

"I saw Master Minded coming but I had a lot left when I kicked for home."

Murphy said: "He's had his bad days, and has made stupid mistakes, but everything has gone really well this year.

"The pair of them have struck up a really good relationship and it's just fantastic. Every day you live with the horse and for him do this is just magic."

Elsewhere in the field, Golden Silver was with Forpadydeplasterer at the head of affairs, but began to feel the pinch running down to the second-last.

Twist Magic yet again disappointed at Cheltenham and was pulled up after a bad mistake.

"He wouldn't go on the ground as it was too quick for him," said Walsh of beaten favourite Master Minded, who won by 19 lengths in his 2008 victory at Cheltenham, and by seven lengths from Well Chief in 2009.

The seven-year-old, trained by Paul Nicholls, was aiming to become the first horse since Badsworth Boy in the 1980s to win the race three years in a row.

"For the first circuit it seemed to be going pretty well, but then he didn't quite go through with it," said the horse's owner, Clive Smith.

"He didn't assert himself but we'll be back, I'm sure."

Walsh had already endured a tough afternoon, falling twice in the build-up to Wednesday's feature.


He and Quel Esprit crashed out early in the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle, the second race of the day, while Jason Maguire surged ahead to win aboard Peddlers Cross (7-1).

Walsh and Citizen Vic then exited late in the RSA Chase having led for much of the race - a fall the horse did not survive.

Weapons Amnesty, a 10-1 shot ridden by Davy Russell, went on to win by some distance, with favourite Punchestowns (2-1) nowhere.

While Walsh suffered, Geraghty's enjoyable afternoon continued as he rode Nicky Henderson's Spirit River to victory in the Coral Cup.

Geraghty moved up menacingly running down to the second-last and took full advantage of a fall for the leader Wishfull Thinking, taking top honours by four and a half lengths.

Walsh eventually registered a win on Sanctuaire in the Juvenile Novices' Hurdle, to the delight of Cheltenham punters as the horse became only the second favourite to win at the festival in 12 attempts.

That victory means Walsh has now won more Cheltenham races than any other jockey in the history of the festival - and importantly it gave Nicholls his first winner of the week with big favourites Big Buck's and Kauto Star still to come.

Punter dressed as a leprechaun at Cheltenham

But the bookies bit back with a vengeance in the day's final race as 40-1 outsider Cue Card, ridden by Joe Tizzard, sauntered past the post ahead of Walsh on Al Ferof and Geraghty on Frawley, silencing the St Patrick's Day punters.

There had earlier been more success for the Walsh family when sister Katie won Wednesday's opening race, the National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup - an amateur riders' novices' chase.

She urged seven-year-old Poker De Sivola (14-1) past Nina Carberry on Becauseicouldntsee to win.

The latter almost held on with just three shoes, having lost one immediately before the race began and run out of time to have it replaced.

"I don't want to sound soft or anything, but this is the best day of my life," said the victorious Walsh.

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see also
Cheltenham day two photos
17 Mar 10 |  Horse Racing
Cheltenham Festival day two as it happened
17 Mar 10 |  Horse Racing
Binocular lands Champion Hurdle
16 Mar 10 |  Horse Racing
Master Minded 'fine from January'
28 Nov 09 |  Horse Racing
Master Minded romps to Chase win
11 Mar 09 |  Horse Racing
Master Minded powers to Chase win
13 Mar 08 |  Horse Racing
BBC racing coverage
09 Apr 11 |  Horse Racing

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