Pooper Scooper / Becher Feature

Squibs come in all shapes and sizes, dear reader, but few in recent memory have been damper than that which descended over our eternally optimistic Scoop 6 ticket yesterday.

With a perm that would have made the great Carlos Valderrama jealous, we were ready for action.

And, though we sailed through the first leg, with both the winner and the second, the fact that the favourite won was no help to those chasing a bumper pot. Or those of us with five alternatives to the jolly...

No matter, for we at least cleared the first hurdle.

Next up, the fillies handicap. None of us: not Gary nor Gavin nor I liked the look of this race. And so it proved our undoing. Simple fact is that fillies on the flat are soooo difficult to predict and, whilst many will point to the 5/1 SP of the winner as a reason why we should have nominated her, we were trying to secure a balance of likeliest fancied runners and possible outsiders to catch the pot.

But it was not to be. Third was the best we could manage here, beaten half a length and a neck. So, the dream diminished for now, we continued to chase for the place part of the wager.

Next up a 16 runner handicap chase, and our four against the field, didn't include the winner Possol. We had fourth and fifth, Osako d'Airy and Gold Medallist, and proceeded towards Placeville on the basis of the former, albeit that he was the 3/1 favourite.

Back then to Lingfield for more flat racing, and the Churchill Stakes. An excellent race was taken in fine style by Yahrab. Again, we progressed with second placed Baharah, Gavin's fancy. (My fancy, Philatelist, is still running...)

Second again in the Huntingdon handicap hurdle (and fourth to boot) meant that the place element carried us all the way to the final contest, a sprint back at Leafy. Alas, our place aspirations were left paddling toward the back of this decent field, as Ceremonial Jade and Prohobit trailed in no better than 6th and 7th.

So... a great idea... no luck... disappointing.

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Many thanks to those hundreds of you who were in the syndicate - we're obviously all disappointed that we didn't get closer, and I think there's universal acceptance that we were attempting a pretty tough task.

For the record, eight tickets collected £473,000 each, including two belonging to Harry Findlay, Denman's owner and big punter. He probably shelled out between £100,000 and £200,000, so fair play to him.

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Today is Aintree, and the feature race is the Becher Chase (that rhymes!).

Won three times in the last four years by Paul Nicholls, we obviously need to take note of his entries. Last year's winner, Mr Appointment, is joined by top weight Gungadu for the omnipotent Ditcheat stable.

8 out of 10 of the last ten winners were aged between 8 and 10, so let's lose Noir Et Vert, Philson Run and Ivoire de Beaulieu.

Winners have come from all over the weights, all over the ratings and from 9/4 to 33/1 (twice, as well as a 25/1). So, I guess what I'm driving at is that this is not an easy race to predict using trends.

Prominent racers have an excellent record in all events over the National fences, and obviously safe jumpers should be favoured. This again brings in both of the Nicholls pair, and it may be foolish to oppose them.

So I won't. I'll add in Always Waining for Peter Bowen, the horse having won a hurdle here, and the trainer having an excellent record at the track; and my quartet will be completed by A New Story, from Michael Hourigan's Irish yard.

It's a fascinating race, and - bearing in mind that three of the last ten winners have gone on to lift the Grand National itself - it is worth taking notes for Aintree in April (though possibly not next April!)

Good luck,

Matt

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