YORKSHIRE’S big Grand National hope Big Fella Thanks takes his final Aintree prep at Newbury tomorrow on a rare day of no all-weather racing.
It will not be greatly missed, with the Big Fella having an excellent chance in Newbury’s feature (3pm) and Presenting Forever and Meanus Dandy our big hopes in the Grimthorpe Chase at Donny (3.15pm).
To Donny in a moment but, first and foremost, it would be no surprise to see Ferdy Murphy’s Big Fella Thanks land tomorrow’s Greatwood Gold Cup at Newbury at decent odds and repeat his victory in the same race of 2010.
He ran a blinder when fourth behind Riverside Theatre in the Ascot Chase last time – a top-class Grade One event – and there are no Riverside Theatre’s in opposition whatsoever here.
Okay, so Gauvain and Deep Purple also beat the local prospect last time but they, too, are class animals and Murphy reported after Big Fella’s last run that he would come on significantly for it.
Add to that the fact that Big Fella Thanks goes extremely well at Newbury – hence his handsome victory in this race 12 months ago – and it’s not difficult to be very keen on his chances off a mark of 149, just three pounds higher than last year.
The opposition looks respectable but not exactly daunting and while likely favourite Swing Bill hacked up last time, that was in a bit of a Mickey Mouse race and the likes of Big Fella Thanks and Niche Market will be a different kettle of fish.
Odds of 7-1 are forecast for Big Fella Thanks and that looks a big price with so many of his rivals having in and out profiles.
All things considered, anything near 7-1 looks generous so get on him with a saver on Swing Bill just in case he is, indeed, as good as he looked last time.
That race aside, Newbury’s card looks very hard to predict – especially without the final declarations – and once again it’s worth remembering that results could be unpredictable over the next 10 days with all the class horses now put away for Cheltenham.
However, there will still be some decent animals on show at Doncaster where Presenting Forever remains a big fancy for the feature race – the Grimthorpe Chase – with Meanus Dandy advised as a saver. Presenting Forever was put up in yesterday’s Horses For Courses column at odds of 11-2 and nothing has changed to temper confidence in his chance.
The Howard Johnson-trained chaser ran a blinder when nearly beating Gold Cup entry Midnight Chase last time and he could be the class act of the field tomorrow off a mark of 145.
However, last week advising a saver bet worked wonders when Quinz did the business at 9-1 with main hope Fistral Beach flopping and this week, Meanus Dandy is the second horse in Donny’s main race to have on our side.
This chap last ran in the Becher Chase where he was a strongly fancied 8-1 chance and the Paul-Nicholls trained chaser was going along very nicely indeed until unshipping his jockey at the Canal Turn.
That is easily forgivable and prior to that Meanus Dandy bolted up in a decent race at Wincanton in November when part owner Mark Woodhouse revealed afterwards: “He likes three miles on a flat track.”
Hey presto because, give or take a couple of furlongs, that’s what he gets tomorrow and while he’s up 12lbs from his Wincanton run it is not hard to envisage this eight-year-old taking that hike in his stride.
He is around a 10-1 shot so we can back him, and Presenting Forever, and be nicely up if one of them obliges.
Tarablaze is the other big danger but so far his jumping has been too poor to recommend him.
Elsewhere at Donny, the late-maturing Mac Aeda ought to go very well in the first (2.10pm), while course specialist Alan King has two very likely types entered in Lidar (3.50pm) and especially Montbazon (4.25pm).
The latter ran a storming debut behind the very smart Cheltenian and ought to be a banker here.
Let’s hope we, too, can bank a few quid with wins in tomorrow’s long-distance chases.
Best of luck whatever you back and have a great weekend.