“BIG SHU” may have disappointed with a third place finish in Cheltenham’s Cross Country race last month, but his Derry owner is much more hopeful as he leads the horse to the Grand National at Aintree this Saturday.
And priced at generous odds of 40/1 with some local firms, Hugh Duffy, maintains his nine years old bay gelding will put in a superior performance against Aintee’s towering fences.
Having come out of the Cheltenham race injury free, the horse has since been primed for the ‘National,’ but much will depend on the going.
“We really want ground which is good to soft,” maintained “Big Shu’s” owner.
“The ground was considered good to firm and that went against us at Cheltenham, he needs a cut in the ground.
“Hopefully, we will get the conditions we need and, all going well, he will be transported to Liverpool this Thursday,” added Mr. Duffy.
Reflecting back on his third place finish at Prestbury Park, his owner said the horse “blew up” with three fences to jump.
“As he approached the last fence, I really felt he was odd-on to win as he does have a turn of foot, but he stopped. The jockey (Paul Carberry) told us he blew up with three fences to jump and he clearly didn’t appreciate the ground.
“In the end we were beaten by three lengths into third place, but we’ve taken the positives and will have a go at the ‘National’ with another jockey, Peter Buchanan, riding him on Saturday.”
Always bullish about his horse’s chances, Hugh insisted that “Big Shu” would not be travelling if he didn’t think the horse had the potential to win.
“There are quite a few people who have horses running in the Grand National, just to have an involvement. The vast majority of those have absolutely no chance, but the buzz they get having runners represent them in the race is fantastic.
“However, for us, it’s all about competing. He wouldn’t be travelling if I didn’t believe ‘Big Shu’ could win and, of course, it’s also worth noting that it’s not always the best horse which wins the Grand National,” he added.
“We had him jumping over the big fences at The Curragh over recent weeks with Peter Buchanan on his back. He’s prepared much better for this race than he was for Cheltenham as he had just recovered from a head cold before the Cross Country race which had an effect on his performance.
“His jockey has already won over the national fences, so that’s another plus, but we’re hopeful and if everything comes right for us - particularly the going - then we believe 40/1 is very generous odds.”
Hugh will travel over on Friday in the company of his son and he’s already getting very excited about the race.
“The buzz which surrounds the National is really special and to have a horse in the race is a great feeling.
“I believe we have a good chance of winning and I’m convinced that ‘Big Shu’ will put up a much better performance than that which we saw at Cheltenham, despite the fact that he finished third in that race,” concluded the Derry man.