Big Shu up for another Cup bid
Peter Maher is eyeing Punchestown Festival compensation for Big Shu after his stable star's early exit from the Crabbie's Grand National at Aintree on Saturday.
The nine-year-old clinched Punchestown's La Touche Cup last April, following up his victory in the Glenfarclas Cross-Country Chase at Cheltenham Festival.
Having finished a good third when defending his Cheltenham crown, Big Shu was strongly fancied by some for the world's most famous steeplechase, but he only made it as far as the third fence before falling under Peter Buchanan.
Maher is looking forward to seeing his charge run in the La Touche Cup again and is already thinking of a return to Merseyside in a year's time.
The trainer said: "It was disappointing, but that's the National. If it was easy it wouldn't be worth a £1million and you wouldn't have 40 lunatics galloping down to the first!
"A horse fell in front of Big Shu at the second and going down to the third the loose horse backed off it, our horse's head was right up his backside and he didn't even see the fence. It was just one of those things.
"He came back in one piece, which is the main thing, and he is a National horse, I'm still sure of that.
"We had the back man look at him when he got home as he's always had a back problem and unbelievably, whatever he did when he came down at Aintree has put the back problem right.
"He didn't go half a mile on Saturday, so I would imagine he'll go to Punchestown now for the La Touche Cup.
"There are plenty of races there he could run in, but I'm a cross-country man through and through and I think that's where he'll go."
Maher plans to send his charge down the cross-country route again next season before a return trip to Aintree and is keen on a rematch with this year's Cheltenham Festival winner and National runner-up Balthazar King.
Maher said: "He's still only a baby really, so hopefully he'll be back there (Aintree) next year and he'll go down the same route.
"We'll stick to the cross-country races, he has a date with Balthazar King lined up and we'll find out who is the best.
"I'd be fairly hopeful we could maybe beat him at Cheltenham, but we'll see."