Jumps Season - At The Races

Becher Chase

    Aintree, Saturday 9th December 2017.
  • Stats Guides

Last Year's Winner: Vieux Lion Rouge

Vieux Lion Rouge
Tom Scudamore
David Pipe
10st 4lb
Starting Price:
Season Form Figures:
Seasonal debut
Previous Best:
1st - Handicap Chase, Haydock (November 2015)

With 14 of the last 23 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. First run in 1992 and run over a circuit-and-a-half of the Grand National course, it 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. One For Arthur also gained some valuable course experience last season when finishing fifth ahead of winning the Grand National two starts later.

However, Grand National experience has been a much greater guide to the Becher Chase than the other way round as ten of the last 21 winners took their chance in the Aintree extravaganza back in the spring. In fact, the last seven winners had run over the Grand National course before and, since 1997, only five winners were having their first experience of these unique fences in any race run over these obstacles and three of those were trained by Paul Nicholls. Last year’s winner, Vieux Lion Rouge, had finished seventh in the Grand National on his previous start. Outside of Aintree form, three of the last 12 British-trained winners ran in the previous season’s Haydock Grand National Trial, and all three finished out with the washing.

The last seven winners had run over the Grand National course before and, since 1997, only five winners were having their first experience of these unique fences in any race run over these obstacles.

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 nine runnings have taken place on soft or heavy ground) but three of the last 11 winners carried 11st 5lb+ so the classier horses can give the weight away and three other winners since 1995 carried top weight. More interesting is official ratings that determine what weight horses will carry as the last 18 winners were rated no higher than 148 and six of the last seven winners were rated no higher than 137.

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 14-11 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 three years ago. Even a 14-year-old in the Nigel Twiston-Davies trained Hello Bud won five years ago and a 13-year-old for the same stable finished a brave second the following season.

Nigel Twiston-Davies leads the way with five winners (and his Baby Run almost made it six four 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 12 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.

At a glance summary

Ran in last season’s Grand National
Trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies or Paul Nicholls
Irish raiders
Horses aged 10+
Officially rated no higher than 137
Having first sight of these fences (unless trained by Paul Nicholls)
Outside the front half-dozen in the betting
Officially rated 149+

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