Sligo has some 'grand' connections to National
Published 01/04/2014 | 05:40
A LIVELY outsider for Saturday's Grand National at Aintree began his career in Sligo.
Big Shu, who is quoted at 33/1 with some bookmakers for the big race, was formerly trained in Sligo by Mark McNiff..
He made his first racecourse appearance while with McNiff in March 2009.
It was a national hunt race at Ayr and he finished a respectable 4th.
He followed up with a great run in a bumper at Punchestown the following January, finishing a good second.
Big Shu ran five times while trained by McNiff before switching to current trainer, Peter Maher, in Naas.
He won the big cross country chase at the Cheltenham Festival in 2013 and went on to win the prestigious La Touche Cup at Punchestown under 12st 3lb.
This year, he showed a return to form when running another impressive race in the cross country chase at Cheltenham, finishing third behind Balthazar King, with Paul Carberry on board.
While the demands of the Grand National represent a far greater challenge than cross country races, it is worth remembering that Silver Birch finished second in the Cheltenham event before winning the 2007 National.
Big Shu has a nice weight for the Aintree spectacle, 10st 8lb.
He has proven stamina and connections are hopeful of a big run, particularly if there is a bit of cut in the ground.
Sligo has had some notable links with the world's most famous race down through the years.
The 2005 winner, Hedgehunter, was bred by Collooney woman, Mary Lang, and her uncle, Tony Keogh, a native of Ballintrillick.
Sligo-born jockey, the late Leo McMorrow, who hailed from Mount Shannon, won the Aintree Grand National in 1949 on 66/1 outsider, Russian Hero.
And the first ever Irish winner of the Grand National, 'Matthew' in 1847, was bred in Sligo by Col. J.C. Westerna.