The Cross Country Chase at the Cheltenham Festival may not be the obvious place to find a Grand National winner. Silver Birch finished runner-up in the race before winning at Aintree in 2007 but it is generally regarded as a race for horses reaching the autumn of their careers.
At the age of nine, Big Shu is probably in his prime. He is trained near Naas by Peter Maher and will be bidding for back-to-back victories in the Cheltenham race before a possible tilt at the National. The handicapper has been fairly lenient by rating him only 9lbs higher than at Cheltenham. Maher’s reaction to the 10st 8lb given to Big Shu was very positive but the Cheltenham race remains his first priority.
He followed his festival victory by winning the La Touche Cup last April at Punchestown under the welter burden of 12st 3lb. Maher than roughed him off for the season and he has had just one prep race for this year’s festival. That came in the Cross Country Chase at Punchestown on 2nd February where he was beaten by Love Rory. He was given a patient ride by Paul Carberry after his long lay-off and ran on steadily in the closing stages. Read more here
NYK Media, www.horsesgalore.co.uk