The Big Dog takes Leopardstown test en route to Aintree
Peter Fahey is happy to give The Big Dog his Grand National prep run in the Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown on Saturday.
The 10-year-old has already enjoyed a fantastic season, winning the Munster National at Limerick and the Troytown Chase at Navan before finishing third under 12 stone in the Welsh Grand National.
The Big Dog will face a big rise in class on the opening day of the Dublin Racing Festival, with Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite Galopin Des Champs among his likely rivals, but Fahey views the Grade One contest as an ideal stepping-stone to Aintree in April.
He said: “At the moment he’ll definitely be running. He came out of the race at Chepstow well.
“It’s a hugely competitive race and Grade One, but it fits in well in that it gives us enough time to aim for Aintree. Hopefully he puts in a big run and it will put us right for the Grand National, which is the main target.
“He’s a little bit behind on ratings on Saturday, but I wouldn’t be worried. It’s a lovely race for him and the ground isn’t going to be too heavy, so it won’t bottom him out too much.
“He’s after having a hard season, running in three big handicaps so far. We’re going into a Grade One race now, but it gives us enough time afterwards to freshen him up for Aintree.”
The Big Dog is one of two planned runners for Fahey on Saturday, with Visionarian set to line up in the Goffs Irish Arkle.
The eight-year-old could renew rivalry with Saint Roi, to whom he finished second in a Grade One at Leopardstown over Christmas, while Dysart Dynamo and Appreciate It are other potential opponents.
Visionarian is the rank outsider in ante-post lists, but Fahey is quietly confident about his chances.
He added: “Visionarian worked and schooled on Tuesday and I’m absolutely thrilled with him – he seems to have come on a bit from his last run.
“Hopefully they don’t put water on the track for him, but he’s in good form and I think he’ll run a very big race.”
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