Big Zeb bravely won a third consecutive Fortria Chase at Navan after an absorbing three-way tussle with Noble Prince and Forpadydeplasterer.
The 2-1 shot took the lead from Forpadydeplasterer after the third-last under Robbie Power, with favourite Noble Prince stalking the pair, and they fought out a terrific battle up the run-in.
Big Zeb, winner of the Queen Mother Champion Chase in 2010, proved the stronger of the trio and beat Noble Prince by two lengths, with the gallant Forpadydeplasterer sticking on well for a close third.
Power said: “I would have loved to have been going a couple of gears quicker. He was jumping so well and I was taking him back after every fence – he has a great cruising speed.
“He idled when he got to the front. He is 10 years of age, but he still has plenty of ability.”
Trainer Colm Murphy, who was recording a double having scored earlier with Voler La Vedette, said: “I’m thrilled to bits. He was very good today. They were never going hard enough for him. It’s a great way to start him back and it’s a relief to get that out of the way.
“We will keep him ticking over now until Leopardstown at Christmas, which is the plan. He is really well in himself and his jumping was very slick today. He will improve plenty for it.”
Paul Nolan, trainer of the runner-up Noble Prince, said: “He ran well. He was beaten by a better horse, a legend. We don’t pick up the same on that ground as we do on better ground.”