Jumps Season - At The Races

Becher Chase

    Aintree, Saturday 3rd December 2016.
  • Stats Guides

Last Year's Winner: Highland Lodge

Highland Lodge
Jockey:
Henry Brooke
Trainer:
James Moffatt
Age:
9
Weight:
10st 0lb
Starting Price:
20/1
Season Form Figures:
72
Previous Best:
3rd - Grade 2 Novices' Chase, Newbury (Nov 2009)

With 13 of the last 22 winners of the Becher Chase going the way of a horse in the first five in the betting, this race designed as a stepping stone to the Grand National has been a pretty good race for the market leaders. Two of the last three winners did not register a top-five finish last time out which is a turnaround from the previous 12 winners.

First run in 1992 and run over a circuit-and-a-half of the Grand National course, the Becher Chase is now a far better spectacle than during the 1990s when the field sizes were disappointing. The race has had some effect on the big one itself later in the season notably in 2003 when the 1-2 went on to fill the same positions with Amberleigh House reversing placings with Clan Royal.

However, Grand National experience has been a much greater guide to the Becher Chase than the other way round as nine of the last 20 winners took their chance in the Aintree extravaganza back in the spring.

In fact, since 1997, only five winners were having their first experience of these unique fences in any race run over the Grand National course and three of those were trained by Paul Nicholls. Last year’s winner, Highland Lodge, had finished eighth the previous year. Outside of Aintree form, three of the last 11 British-trained winners ran in the previous season’s Haydock Grand National Trial, and all three finished out with the washing.

Since 1997, only five winners were having their first experience of these unique fences in any race run over the Grand National course and three of those were trained by Paul Nicholls.

I am a great advocate of supporting an experienced horse in the Grand National itself as stamina counts for so much and that is an attribute I believe to be better found in an older horse. Since the inception of the Becher Chase, horses aged in double figures trail 13-11 but they have been significantly lesser represented than horses aged nine or under and it was a 13-year-old in Oscar Time who was successful two years ago.

Even a 14-year-old in the Nigel Twiston-Davies trained Hello Bud won four years ago and a 13-year-old for the same stable finished a brave second the following season. If you elect to go down the lines of supporting a horse aged under ten then perhaps draw the line at eight-year-olds as only one horse aged seven has won since Indian Tonic back in 1993 and that was Silver Birch who later went on to win the Grand National itself.

As far as weight carried is concerned, some would argue that conventional logic says chuck out anything carrying over 11st given this is a stern test of stamina on testing ground (seven of the last eight runnings have taken place on soft or heavy ground) but three of the last ten winners carried 11st 5lb+ so the classier horses have been coming to the fore. Three other winners since 1995 carried top weight so don’t let a big weight put you off.

Nigel Twiston-Davies leads the way with five winners (and his Baby Run almost made it six three years ago when only beaten a length into second place), two winners ahead of Paul Nicholls who has also saddled four runners-up.

The Irish have won three of the last 11 renewals and all three contested both the previous season’s Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown and the Troytown Chase, two of which also ran in the Irish National and Pat Taaffe Chase. Dare To Endeavour finished runner-up for the Irish last season at 33/1.

At a glance summary

Positives
Ran in last season’s Grand National
Trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies or Paul Nicholls
Irish raiders
Horses aged 10+
Don’t let a big weight put you off
Negatives
Having first sight of these fences (unless trained by Nicholls)
Aged under eight
Outside the front half-dozen in the betting

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