UNHERALDED County Kildare trainer Peter Maher feels he has Big Shu in the shape of his life ahead of tomorrow’s sell-out Grand National.
Big Shu won the Cross-Country Chase at the Cheltenham Festival 12 months ago and finished third in the race last month, beaten by three lengths by Balthazar King, who also runs in the Aintree showpiece.
With Paul Carberry taking the mount on Monbeg Dude in the world’s greatest steeplechase, Maher was on the lookout for a jockey and surprised a few when booking Peter Buchanan, a stalwart of jump racing in the North and who rode Sue Smith’s Mr Moonshine 12 months ago.
“My nerves are in bits,” said Maher. “He deserves a crack at this, people have said I should have saved him for the banks race at Punchestown, but you only get one real crack at the National.
“He’s the sort of horse you can only train properly for one race each season and this year we decided on the National. He’s in the best shape of his life.
“Peter Buchanan came over on Saturday to pop him over a few National-style fences, I wanted him to have a feel of him. I thought very hard about who would ride him and I came in for a bit of stick in Ireland for overlooking some of the lads based at home.
“Peter is a true horseman, he’s competed in showjumping for Ireland and I know he’ll look after the horse for me.
“One thing he does need is rain, though – they can go flat out early on and if it rains that might just slow him down early on.”
One slight change is that Paul Moloney now rides the Fergal O’Brien-trained Alvarado for the Rucker family, after finishing placed in the last five Nationals on State Of Play and Cappa Bleu.
Moloney had been due to ride One In A Milan for his boss Evan Williams, but that mount has now gone to Adam Wedge.