Big Zeb laid down an early challenge to Master Minded's dominance in the two-mile chase division with a cheeky victory in the Ladbrokes.com Fortria Chase at Navan yesterday.
Colm Murphy's charge, beaten just a head by the dual Queen Mother Champion Chase hero in the Kerrygold Champion Chase at Punchestown in April, could not have made a more impressive return to action.
Sent off the 11-10 favourite for this Grade Two event, he was ridden with extreme confidence by Barry Geraghty, who was standing in for the injured Matt O'Connor.
Made In Taipan made a bid for home at the top of the straight but Geraghty tracked him all the way and was still hard on the bridle in the last furlong, easing to the front to score by half a length without being asked a question.
Bookmakers were suitably impressed and cut him to 6-1 from |8-1 for the Champion Chase at Cheltenham next March.
“We'll either go to Sandown (for the Tingle Creek) or for the John Durkan next. We'll see how he comes out of the race,” said Murphy.
“I'd have preferred not to run him on this sort of ground but there was nothing else for him and he needed more experience over fences.
“Ground will decide where we'll go next. I think he'll be a stone better on better ground.”
Aitmatov and Oscar Looby were on target to provide trainer Noel Meade and jockey Paul Carberry with a 65-1 double.
The former defied top-weight when running out a gritty winner of the Grade Two Lismullen Hurdle.
Oscar Looby benefited from the last-fence fall of the odds-on Catch Me to take the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Novice Chase.
Meanwhile, prolific Ulsterman Tony McCoy rode a 15-1 treble at Ffos Las yesterday, Get Me Out Of Here, Danehill Willy and Factotum obliging for the champion jockey.