Koral hero ready for higher honours

The Big Opal has unfinished business at Riccarton and the Kevin Myers-trained jumper is in exactly the right order to seal the deal in seven days’ time.
The Storm Creek gelding went into last year’s Grand National Steeplechase as a warm favourite off the back of his win in the Koral Steeplechase, but only for rider Matt Gillies to lose his irons 6 f from home and they subsequently parted company at the final fence.
The Big Opal, with Shaun Fannin replacing a side-lined Gillies, will again start at short odds in next weekend’s Racecourse Hotel & Motor Lodge-sponsored feature after he was untroubled on Saturday to defend his NZI Koral title.
“He measured his fences well and relaxed and got into a good rhythm so it’s all looking good,” Fannin said.
“He makes up a lot of ground at his fences and he's got that flat speed to increase the tempo and push the issue when we need him to."
The Big Opal coasted in front and when Fannin urged him along 4 f from home they quickly had their rivals under pressure.
They were well clear over the final two flights to cruise to the line with five and a half lengths to spare from Kina Win with Tai Ho third.
“He’s had a different preparation to last year and he can be quite a bullish horse, but he settled nicely in front today,” Fannin said.
“Everything I asked of him he did so it’s is very positive for next weekend.”
The Big Opal has been cut from $2.80 to be an even money favourite for the National ahead of last year’s winner Upper Cut, who is at $5.50 after his fourth placing in the Koral.

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