A return visit to Aintree for the John Smith's Grand National has been top of the agenda for Big Fella Thanks ever since his fine effort in finishing sixth in the race in 2009, writes Elliot Slater.
Paul Nicholls' progressive eight-year-old gelding made tremendous strides up the staying chasing ranks last term winning the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster before a great run to be third to Nacarrat in the Racing Post Chase. He then put in a rock solid effort to come in behind Mon Mome at Aintree. Everything about the horse suggests he has what it takes to be a major force in the top long-distance events from now on. His first outing of the season, coming second to the smart Carruthers at Cheltenham in late December, showed that everything appears to be going to plan in his build up to April's big race.
Next stop for the horse, currently 20/1 second favourite in the Aintree Grand National betting, is another crack at the Racing Post Chase. After that he might not be seen again until Aintree. In last year's race Christian Williams held Big Fella Thanks up at the rear of the 40-strong Grand National field and, although he blundered at Becher's first time around, he managed to get back into contention turning for home, only to fade in the last quarter mile.
A year older, and having proved his aptitude for the daunting Aintree obstacles, the gelded son of Primitive Rising must have a great chance of getting into the thick of things again if given a fair weight by the handicapper.
Paul Nicholls has won every major prize in jump racing apart from the Grand National and now Big Fella Thanks looks one of a number of serious candidates to bring the prize for the 2010 renewal back to Ditcheat.
Indeed, many will be betting Grand National success finally comes Nicholls' way this year, an eventuality that can be backed at 7/1.