The Becher Chase is a race I look forward to each year. It’s a great spectacle over the Grand National fences, there is less stamina guesswork than we have to do ahead of the Grand National itself and there are some clear pace and trend pointers, which I'll showcase below.
Becher Chase Pace Bias
Not all races run at Aintree over 3m2f are run over the Grand National course but many are, especially the bigger field races.
Not the biggest of samples but we see some very strong trends in this pace data. The win data isn’t completely reliable given the sample size but still we see a strong win percentage for front runners (10%) and the success rate gradually declines the further back in the field a horse is ridden until you get to held up, which has a win strike rate of just 3.76%.
Now in a sample size like this we need to pay a lot more attention to the place data as three to four times as many runners are contributing to the data set. The place data follows a very similar trend to the win data though with front runners once again coming out on top with a very tidy place percentage of 40%. There is a bit of a drop off between prominent and mid division at 26.17% and 20.48% respectively and then there is a similar drop off down to held up which has a place percentage of just 14.29%.
Front runners seem to enjoy far more of an advantage here than any other run style. Not only do the win and place stats back this up but front runners are also profitable to back blind, generating a Win PL of 3.5 and an EW PL of 10.5. Prominent racers are also profitable to back each way (EW PL of 7.67) but all other run styles are unprofitable to follow, again supporting the case that you want to be as close to the pace as possible here.
When you spot a pace bias like this it can be tempting to think you should only back those that race front rank but that’s not the case. Almost half of the winners in this sample have raced in mid division or the rear, but those run styles have provided many more runners and therefore many more opportunities. So whilst it is an advantage to be on the pace here, it’s by no means impossible to make up ground from the back.
Previous Grand National Fence Experience In The Becher
A previous run over the Grand National fences, particularly a good one, seems to be extremely important in this race.
An amazing 10 of the last 11 winners of the Becher Chase had previous experience over the Grand National course. Add to that the fact that 26 of the last 33 runners to finish in the first 3 in this had also previously run over the National fences and we see a very strong bias towards those who are in some shape or form proven over these obstacles.
So here we see an even stronger trend than the pace bias and in most years the winning tricast will be made up of runners that have previous experience here.
Becher Chase 2021 Preview
A very interesting race again this year with last year’s 1-2-3 all reopposing and taking on 19 other contenders.
The first thing I want to examine is previous course form, and I’ll be using Instant Expert to assist me.
Note that two of the runners (the David Pipe pair at the bottom of the weights) don’t appear in Instant Expert as they have both exclusively raced abroad to date. The pair are well out of the handicap and are the complete outsiders so it shouldn’t make much difference to exclude them anyway.
The course info is what I’m really after above but it’s worth remembering that this is for Aintree in general, not necessarily the Grand National course. These are the runners that have previously run over these fences and their form figures recorded here.
Mac Tottie 1
Kimberlite Candy 22PU
Chris’s Dream UR
Vieux Lion Rouge 7167920951F
Hogan’s Height 106
Le Breuil 73
Tout Est Permis PU
Lord Du Mesnil 9PU
Via Dolorosa 4
Didero Vallis 58
Now obviously a runner without previous National fence experience CAN win this race, and it seems this year more than ever there are some excellent contenders without that experience, but with a couple of bookies paying as many as 7 places on each way bets I’d rather be taking an each way price about one of the above.
So what about the pace for this race? Here is the pace map.
We know that front runners, and to a lesser degree prominent racers, can be favoured here even over the longer distances and with a pretty steady early gallop likely this probably won’t be the stamina test it could be and those that are patiently ridden could be at a disadvantage.
Lord Du Mesnil looks to be the main pace angle with Cobolobo and Via Dolorosa likely to track that runner. El Paso Wood could race prominently too based on his form in France but it’s difficult to predict given he now races for new connections.
You almost certainly don’t want to be in the rear of this field so Chris’s Dream, Domaine De L’Isle, Mighty Thunder and Achille could be amongst those most inconvenienced.
Now looking at the runners, the trio that filled the places last year seems a good place to start. Vieux Lion Rouge bounced back to form in this last year with a 24 length win, taking advantage of a declining handicap mark. Much of his best form is on very testing ground so it’s difficult to read much into an 18.5 length defeat on good ground over just less than 3 miles on seasonal reappearance with this clearly the target. He’s only 5lbs higher this time around so is impossible to rule out.
Kimberlite Candy followed him home and was runner up in the race for a second year running. The ground was probably a bit fast for him in the Grand National, which was his next start and a poor effort but he does need to prove his wellbeing here. He’ll appreciate any rain on Saturday but there are more likely winners in the field.
Le Breuil was third last year and he continues to frustrate. He’s difficult to catch right and ran very poorly on reappearance, plus he’s 4lbs out of the handicap. These fences have a habit of sparking life back into out of form runners and they’ll certainly need to here.
It’s no surprise to see Mac Tottie near the head of the betting after winning over these fences last time out. That victory came in the Grand Sefton last month. A 7lb rise for that effort isn’t too much given he should improve for the step back up in trip but softening ground is a slight concern. He has won on soft before but he’s generally considered a horse that is better on a slightly sounder surface.
Chris’s Dream makes some appeal on form. He may not have completed on his only run over these fences but he was going well enough when unseating in the Grand National and he had gone further than this trip when his race ended. He’s unlikely to be ideally placed in this though which is a concern given the likely pace setup.
Hogan’s Height and Tout Est Permis both have pieces of form to recommend them on but neither have the overall profiles to really appeal. Via Dolorosa ran well here last time behind Mac Tottie and he looked a bit of a natural over these obstacles. His stamina is a question mark though and he’s 6lbs out of the handicap.
Meanwhile Didero Vallis was disappointing on seasonal debut but he stays this far, the ground will be no problem and has has completed twice here, albeit well enough beaten on both occasions. If you can get the best of the each way terms he might offer a bit of value at a decent price (around 25/1).
The safest play though at what is still a fair price (7/1) might be Mac Tottie who is still on the up and perhaps he improved for the removal of the hood last time out. The step up in trip will suit and as long as the ground doesn’t get too testing he should go very well. Vieux Lion Rouge isn't a bad price at 12/1 given his record here, especially over trips shy of 4m which he doesn't seem to stay.
Of those without National fence experience Snow Leopardess looks an obvious one with pretty much everything in her favour. She should really appreciate this test but you never know if they’ll take to the fences until you’ve seen them.