John Smith's Grand National - 6th April 2013 

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grand national 2013 /


Big Fella Thanks Aimed at Becher Chase

Aintree hosts a high-quality card on Betfred Becher Chase Day, Saturday, December 8, with two races over the Grand National fences taking centre stage.

Big Fella Thanks
© Racehorse Photos

Big Fella Thanks

The Listed Betfred Becher Handicap Chase (2.10pm) offers tremendous prize money of £110,000 this year, an increase of £10,000 on 2011, and gives potential John Smith's Grand National contenders a rare opportunity to gain valuable experience of the unique Grand National course.

The three and a quarter-mile contest has proven to be a key trial for the world's greatest chase in recent years. Amberleigh House took the spoils in 2001 before giving his legendary trainer Ginger McCain a fourth victory in the John Smith's Grand National in 2004.

Silver Birch scored in the 2004 Betfred Becher Handicap Chase prior to capturing the John Smith's Grand National in 2007, while Black Apalachi won the Betfred Becher Handicap Chase in 2008 and was runner-up to Don't Push It in the 2010 John Smith's Grand National.

Trainer Tom George is hoping Big Fella Thanks can continue his excellent record over the Grand National fences. The lightly raced 10-year-old has completed the famous course on each of his three starts in the John Smith's Grand National, with a fourth-placed finish in 2010 being his best effort. He was also seventh in 2011 and sixth in 2009.

Following a 567-day absence, he made his debut for George at Aintree on October 27 in the Betfred Mobile Sports Veterans' Handicap Chase, when he was travelling well prior to unseating Paddy Brennan at the eighth fence of the Mildmay course.

George revealed: "The Betfred Becher Handicap Chase is definitely a race we are looking at for Big Fella Thanks. The race has been the plan for him since he came back in and he has been in really good form.

"He is where we want him to be at the moment. It was a bit unfortunate what happened last time at Aintree but it didn't do him any harm and has got a run into him.

"He was showing all the right signs before his run at Aintree. His work has been good and he has been showing plenty of enthusiasm.

"I think the Betfred Becher Handicap Chase will suit him. He has run very well there before and loves the track but the John Smith's Grand National has always looked a bit too far for him - I think the trip in the Betfred Becher Handicap Chase will be just about right.

"The only target we have had for him is the Betfred Becher Handicap Chase so after that will just pick and choose as we see right for him."

The Betfred Grand Sefton Handicap Chase (3.20pm), run over two miles, five and a half furlongs of the Grand National course, has also received a boost in prize money and this year's renewal is worth £60,000, as against £50,000 in 2011.

The race has also thrown up pointers for the John Smith's Grand National, most notably Forest Gunner, who captured the contest in 2004 and went on to finish fifth in the John Smith's Grand National the same season.

A seven-race card on Betfred Becher Chase Day also features a pair of Listed races - the £20,000 Betfred "The Bonus King" Fillies' Juvenile Hurdle (12.35pm) and the Betfred Treble Odds On Lucky 15's Chase (1.05pm). The first race is at noon.

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