O’Regan to ride Big Fella

Irish jockey snapped up by Tom George for Grand National bid

Wed, Mar 27, 2013, 12:19

Denis O’Regan has been snapped up by trainer Tom George for the ride on Big Fella Thanks in the John Smith’s Grand National.

The Irish jockey has yet to win the Aintree spectacular but he went close when second on the Dessie Hughes-trained Black Apalachi behind Don’t Push It in 2010.

George has acted quickly to secure his services and believes O’Regan and Big Fella Thanks will make a good combination.

“He’s not ridden him before, but he’s a good rider and I think he’ll suit the horse,” said George.

Big Fella Thanks has got round in three Nationals, finishing fourth, sixth and seventh, and was also third in the Becher Chase over the famous fences in December.

The 11-year-old also holds an entry in the Topham Chase at the three-day meeting next week, but the National is the favoured target.

“It’s looking more likely he’ll go for the National. Obviously if it did get very soft, we’d have a discussion about it, but the target is the National,” said the Slad trainer.

“We’ll leave him in the Topham as well, just in case.

“He’s on a career-high mark of 154. If the handicapper is right, he’s better than he’s ever been.

“He’s finished fourth in a National, he’s had a good preparation and we hope everything goes his way. He enjoys the place and we know anything can happen round there.”

Seabass was third 12 months ago and his trainer Ted Walsh is expecting another good run, especially as the 10-year-old has coped with his revised mark when third in the Bobbyjo Chase last month.

“The Bobbyjo was the first time he’d run off his new mark of 154, so I was glad to see him run up to it,” Walsh told At The Races.

“It was a good run and I was delighted he ran as well as he should do.”

Walsh has a good second string to his bow in Colbert Station owned by JP McManus and winner of the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas.

“He delivered well in the Paddy Power. The trip was a bit of a worry as he shows plenty of pace, but he bolted in there and there was no doubt about the trip,” said Walsh.

“He’s been freshened up since Christmas. There’s not a lot to choose between the two of them, but Seabass has the experience of being there.”

One horse ruled out of the big race is Prince De Beauchene, who is suffering from a stress fracture in his ilium (pelvis).

Willie Mullins’ charge had been among the leading contenders for the Aintree showpiece after winning over hurdles on his return and finishing second in the Bobbyjo.

“We have had some bad news about Prince De Beauchene,” the trainer told www.wpmullins.com.

“He had not been striding out for the last few days and following a bone scan at Troytown Veterinary Hospital, it has been confirmed he has a minor stress fracture in his ilium.

“He will require at least six weeks box rest, so unfortunately he will the Aintree Grand National.”

Mullins and Prince De Beauchene’s owner Graham Wylie still have ante-post favourite On His Own in the National field.

Bookmakers have cut On His Own to 7-1 favourite following the news about Prince De Beauchene.

Seabass and Cappa Bleu, second and third in the market, have also been shortened in the betting along with several others.