Cheltenham betting – Master Minded vs Big Zeb?
Is the Queen Mother Champion Chase a toss up between Master Minded and Big Zeb
Question marks continue to hang over the head of Paul Nicholls’s star chaser Master Minded who fluffed his hat-trick bid in last year’s running of the Queen Mother. Big Zeb and Barry Geraghty foiled his efforts last time but the real Master Minded could well be back after three victories in as many races since his defeat at the festival. Colm Murphy runs Big Zeb again and will be hopeful of a repeat performance but he suffered a setback at Punchestown latest when he was beaten half a length by another Queen Mother entry Golden Silver. Somersby ran Master Minded to the wire and only a short head was the difference in the Victor Chandler Chase at Ascot in January – a result which leaves this Grade 1contest wide open.
All the talk prior to the 2010 Champion Chase surrounded Master Minded and his attempt for a third consecutive victory in the race. Sent off at 4/5 jolly, Ruby Walsh could not get a tune out of the French import as he tried to make an impression on the leaders. Of those leaders, it was Big Zeb who defied odds of 10/1 and won cosily in the end. But Master Minded seems to be running himself back into some sort of form with three odds on successes in preparation for the Queen Mother. However, he was run mightily close by the aforementioned Somersby last time and many would argue the horse has lost its sparkle of old. Clive Smith’s horse is now two years older than he was when he claimed the 2009 Queen Mother as a 6-year-old and many punters believe he could have burnt out at the age of eight. Punters will be queuing up to lay this horse at 5/2 but one would be foolish to think he has little left in the tank which has seen him power to two excellent Champion Chase wins.
On the other hand, Big Zeb would have surely been clear paper favourite for the race had it not been for his latest defeat to Golden Silver. Barry Geraghty looked the winner from a long way out but his failure by a narrow margin has seen bookmakers push out Big Zeb’s price a little to 11/4. But that form makes difficult reading as Golden Silver was beaten by Big Zeb at Leopardstown two runs back and to reverse the placing’s next time has left a lot to be desired for Willie Mullins’ 9-year-old. Big Zeb is two years Master Minded’s senior but age seems no barrier and a big run can be expected at Prestbury Park.
Somersby’s tight knit finish with Master Minded last time puts him right into contention for this race and the 8/1 about him is value. He has placed in all but one of thirteen appearances at a racecourse and has been the shining light of the underperforming Henrietta Knight stable at present. Sizing Europe (10/1) is another who could enter the fray and last year’s Arkle winner ran a creditable four-length second behind Kauto Star at Down Royal towards the back end of last year. Henry De Bromhead’s runner should give another good account and can threaten the ‘big two’ on his day. Woolcombe Folly (8/1) and Captain Cee Bee (10/1) can feature too and make this more than just a two-horse race.
The Queen mother Chase is far from a duel between Master Minded and Big Zeb although they could go off joint favourite for the festival’s day three feature race. Their prices currently fluctuate between the 11/4 and 3/1 mark so it will be interesting to see who the money comes for just before post time. Market confidence can often point the way and it would be no surprise to see them come in for major money. Big Zeb probably shades the vote, albeit a tentative one, after being nudged out of it last time.
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