Tag Archive for: Becher Chase

Mighty chance of more Aintree glory for Russell team

Lucinda Russell is excited to see her Scottish Grand National hero Mighty Thunder tackle the famous Aintree fences for the first time in Saturday’s Unibet Becher Chase.

A week on from exciting stablemate Ahoy Senor annihilating his rivals at Newbury, the Kinross handler – who saddled One For Arthur to win the 2017 Grand National – is out to claim further big-race success on Merseyside.

Since his narrow victory in the Scottish equivalent at Ayr in April, Mighty Thunder has run just once – finishing fourth in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby in October.

Russell expects that run to leave her charge spot-on for this weekend’s assignment and she has been encouraged by his schooling over a National-type fence at her Scottish yard.

Trainer Lucinda Russell (left) celebrates in the parade ring with Mighty Thunder
Trainer Lucinda Russell (left) celebrates in the parade ring with Mighty Thunder (Jeff Holmes/PA)

“He seems in very good form. If he takes to the fences, he could run a very big race,” said Russell.

“The trip is probably a little bit short for him, but I think he’ll be fine on the ground.

“We chopped a tree down and built a fence at home and he jumped that fine.

“He was always going to need his first run in the Charlie Hall and I’m been pleased with him since.”

Four weeks on from winning the Grand Sefton Chase, Mac Tottie bids to complete a double over the National fences for the father and son team of Peter and James Bowen.

Bowen senior said: “It probably will be harder task and he’s got 7lb more to carry so it will be harder, but I think the trip will suit and he’ll be even better going a bit further. Fingers crossed he should go well.

“It all depends if he can cope with his handicap mark (142) and handle the step up in trip, I think he will.

“I’m looking forward to it, he’s so fit and well and everything has gone well for him since his last run.”

Snow Leopardess is a leading contender for Charlie Longsdon, having made a successful start to her campaign in a competitive handicap chase at Bangor last month.

Snow Leopardess in action at Bangor
Snow Leopardess in action at Bangor (David Davies/PA)

“We’ve not had winning form over the National fences, but I think she would be the first one that has gone into a race over them in the top four in the market,” said Longsdon.

“She is in great form and with Chris’s Dream in there she will only carry 10st 4lb.

“There is no reason why, but her best form seems to be left-handed. The Grand National track is left-handed and in my eyes there should be no issues.”

The four Irish challengers are Henry de Bromhead’s top-weight Chris’s Dream, Noel Meade’s pair of Tout Est Permis and Snow Falcon and Ravenhill from Gordon Elliott’s stable.

Jamie Codd celebrates victory in the National Hunt Chase aboard Ravenhill
Jamie Codd celebrates victory in the National Hunt Chase aboard Ravenhill (Andrew Matthews/PA)

The latter won the National Hunt Chase at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival and drops down in class after finishing last of five behind Frodon in the Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal.

“I think the demands of Aintree will suit, but obviously it is more April (Grand National) we are thinking about,” said Elliott.

“We’ll see how he takes to the fences on Saturday. Some trainers like to send them straight to the National without going over the fences first. Everyone is different, there’s no right or wrong way, everyone has their own opinion but I don’t think it does any harm to go over and have a little look.”

Mac primed for latest assault on National fences

Mac Tottie will aim for a unique double in the Unibet Becher Handicap Chase at Aintree on Saturday.

Only a handful of races are run over the Grand National fences each season, with three of those at the big meeting in April – meaning options were limited.

That was certainly the case when the Grand Sefton and Becher Chase were held on the same afternoon, as they had been up until this year, but running the Grand Sefton and Aintree’s November meeting means horses can now run in both.

Peter Bowen, who trained Always Waining to win three Topham Chases over the National fences, expects Mac Tottie to be even more suited by the extra distance in the Becher than when he won the Grand Sefton.

He said: “It probably will be harder task and he’s got 7lb more to carry so it will be harder, but I think the trip will suit and he’ll be even better going a bit further. Fingers crossed he should go well.

“We’ve not had many that don’t take to the fences, most of the ones we have run tend to take to them and it’s been a very lucky place for us. He took to them straight away, we didn’t think it would be an issue and it wasn’t.

Always Waining was a star for Peter Bowen over the National fences
Always Waining was a star for Peter Bowen over the National fences (Gareth Copley/PA)

“The top-weight (Chris’s Dream) staying in has helped, he’s on 10st 6lb so we’re happy, he schooled brilliant yesterday morning and worked well the day before.

“It all depends if he can cope with his handicap mark (142) and handle the step up in trip, I think he will.

“I’m looking forward to it, he’s so fit and well and everything has gone well for him since his last run.”

He added: “Always Waining is still at home, he seems great in himself and you wouldn’t think he was more than a four- or five-year-old.”

Snow Leopardess team excited by Becher task

Charlie Longsdon is excited to see Snow Leopardess tackle the Grand National fences for the first time in the Unibet Becher Handicap Chase at Aintree on Saturday.

A Grade Two winner over hurdles, the nine-year-old’s racing days appeared to be over after she suffered injury when scoring in France four years ago.

But while the daughter of Martaline gave birth to a filly by Sir Percy during her spell on the sidelines, she was put back into training in 2019 and appears to have retained all her old ability.

“The plan was for her to come back in training. A lot of people said to me they don’t come back as good, but she has come back as good as ever,” said Longsdon.

“She loves her jumping and if she is not right she will tell you. Getting her back to this level of form is a big testament to the team with the issues she had.”

Last season Snow Leopardess won a valuable handicap chase at Haydock, filled the runner-up spot in the Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby and finished fourth in the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham.

And having recently made a successful reappearance at Bangor, hopes are high ahead of her latest bid for big-race success on Merseyside this weekend.

Snow Leopardess with Charlie Longsdon
Snow Leopardess with Charlie Longsdon (The Jockey Club)

Longsdon said: “The Becher Chase has always been the plan. We went to Bangor and we were lucky it turned out to be on soft ground. I thought the track might be a bit sharp, but she jumped great.

“I met up with Aidan (Coleman) in Lambourn last week. We didn’t do a lot up there and we literally went over the (National) fences once. Aidan said that was fine and not to worry about doing it any more.

“The worry with a horse that is bold and brave is that if they are going to be bold and brave over the National fences it is not necessarily ideal, but she was very quick in and out over them, which I was pleased to see.

“There is no doubt it would be special if she could win on Saturday as you don’t get many of those mares like her with the story and everything that has gone with it.”

Aintree announce Sefton switch

Aintree’s Grand Sefton Handicap Chase, one of five races staged over the famous Grand National fences each season, will now be contested in November.

The two-mile-five-furlong contest has been run as part of the track’s December meeting since its revival in 2003, starring alongside the longer Becher Chase which is also run over the National fences.

However, it will now move to a slot a month earlier, highlighting the November meeting at the track.

Aintree’s clerk of the course Sulekha Varma said: “By moving the Grand Sefton Handicap Chase forward a month to the November meeting there are now three fixtures a year where the Grand National fences are utilised, with the Becher Handicap Chase following at the December meeting and then the three contests at Randox Grand National Festival in April.

“We felt that the November meeting at Aintree lacked a highlight and this move should hopefully give it a boost. It always feels extra special at our fixtures when the famous Grand National fences are in use and it is exciting that the Grand Sefton Handicap Chase will now have its own billing.

“By having the opportunity to run a horse over the Grand National fences at a different time of year, we also hoping that moving the Grand Sefton Handicap Chase forward a month will assist trainers in their planning for the Randox Grand National Festival.”

Trainer Jamie Snowden saddled Hogan’s Height to victory in the 2019 Grand Sefton and the Lambourn handler believes the switch will open up the option for horses to go on and contest the Becher.

He said: “I think this is a sensible move, as it means that it will now be possible to run a horse in the Grand Sefton and then go on to the Becher the following month.

“I wonder if the possibility of having a bonus for a horse that can win the Grand Sefton, Becher and Grand National could ever be an option in the future.

“Hogan’s Height is being aimed at the Grand Sefton once again and I am also considering the race as an option for Thomas Macdonagh.”

Robert Walford calls time with Becher Chase hero Walk In The Mill

Walk In The Mill, a dual winner of the Becher Chase, has been retired after pulling up at Warwick earlier this month.

The 11-year-old was never happy at any stage of the Classic Chase and jockey James Best called a halt after the 12th obstacle.

Before that disappointing effort, Walk In The Mill had fallen at the Chair at Aintree in early December as he failed in his bid to win the Becher for the third year running.

After those two performances, his trainer Robert Walford felt the time was right to call it a day with his stable stalwart, who also covered himself in glory when fourth in the 2019 Grand National.

“He’s absolutely fine. He just didn’t really want to know at Warwick. He wasn’t interested in racing,” said the Dorset handler.

“He’s been an amazing horse for us. He’s done more than we could ever have dreamt of.

“At some point something stops them racing and he didn’t want to go, so that’s that.

“He’s been a good lad. He’s going back to his owner (Baroness Harding) to spend his retirement.”

Walk In The Mill won six of his 30 races and amassed over £307,000 in prize money.

Walk In The Mill Has Right Credentials For Hat Trick Bid

The Becher Chase is one of my favourite jumps races of the season and we look set for a cracker at Aintree on Saturday.

This article will run through some trends for this race, relevant form for each runner and of course many of the angles that are highlighted with a Geegeez Gold subscription.

Pace

Pace is an important factor in any race so let’s take a look at any potential pace bias in this race which could help narrow down the field:

Despite the long distance there is a clear indication that being near the pace is an advantage here at Aintree. It’s worth noting that not all of these races took place on the National course but many of them did and we see some very strong data.

The Win %, Win PL, Place % and IV all drop the further back in the field you are. The Place PL also follows a similar trend except 'Prominent' is slightly more profitable than 'Led' for that metric.

Now it’s worth noting that almost half the winners above have been either held up or have raced in mid division so we can’t simply put a line through those that are likely to be more patiently ridden but they’ve provided far more runners in the above data set and are clearly disadvantaged. Therefore we need to mark up those likely to be closer to the pace and mark down those who are likely to be held up.

The fact that almost half of front runners reach the frame suggests it’s not a bad strategy to simply back whichever front runner appears to have the best chance in this race.

Further credence is given to that strategy when you look at the data for this distance exclusively on soft ground.

The metrics for front runners fly up and the IV is huge 6.54. Front runners have a 37.5% win ratio and 62.5% place ratio. The sample is even smaller here so perhaps this data shouldn’t be taken completely at face value but soft ground certainly seems to benefit front runners even more than good ground does.

So which horses are likely to benefit from the pace bias, and which aren’t?

It looks likely that the pace will come from Yala Enki with Coo Star Sivola most likely to lead if Yala Enki doesn’t.

The immediate take away from this pace map, other than the fact that it’s likely to be front runner favouring lone speed, is that two of the leading contenders according to the market, Walk In The Mill and Le Breuil could be near the rear of the field.

Previous Experience Of The Fences

When it comes to the Grand National, some prefer the solid choice of previous experience over these fences and others prefer something that is unexposed over the famous obstacles.

When it comes to the Becher Chase it has certainly paid to follow Grand National fence form. A massive nine of the last ten winners had previously run on the Grand National course and twenty-three of the last thirty horses to finish in the first three had the same experience.

Now it’s worth remembering that in an ordinary year some of these that haven’t yet run here would have done so in April had we not lost the 2020 Grand National meeting to Covid so if there is a year this trend will be bucked it will probably be this year but this remains a noteworthy stat.

The runners in this year’s Becher Chase who have Grand National course experience are:

Kimberlite Candy
Le Breuil
Walk In The Mill
Ramses De Teilee
Minellacelebration
Vieux Lion Rouge
Joe Farrell

The runners without a run over these fences are:

Yala Enki
Calett Mad
Coo Star Sivola
Give Me A Copper
Smooth Stepper
Aso
Jett
Calipso Collonges

Race Fitness

Only four of these come here without a previous run this season. Is that a big deal?

Well three of the last ten winners have come here fresh and defied an absence which is a strong record given the majority of the field have usually had a prep. A lack of previous run this season certainly shouldn’t be seen as a big negative.

Once again Covid could have a slight effect here. Those who won here fresh had previously run in April but the fresh runners this year have not run since January at least which could have an impact.

Instant Expert

Instant Expert is an excellent tool for getting a quick insight into horse, trainer, jockey or sire performance across a number of relevant metrics. This is how the runners shape up from a place perspective here:

Calipso Collonges is particularly consistent on this ground but surprisingly Le Breuil, and a few other fancied runners, have a patchy record on soft ground.

The importance of course form has already been discussed and Walk In The Mill, Kimberlite Candy and Minellacelebration all do well here but it’s worth noting that Minellacelebration’s good runs at Aintree were on the Mildmay course and he ran poorly over this course in this race last season.

Le Breuil’s poor performance here across the board really stands out. He was beaten 20 lengths in this last season and is only 4lbs lower this time around. It’s difficult to make a case for him and he looks remarkably short with so many question marks.

Vieux Lion Rouge ticked a box having previously run at this course but also seems to have plenty of negatives against him, including a poor run in this last year.

From the place perspective Kimberlite Candy (from limited data), Walk In The Mill, Minellacelebration are all solid.

Narrowing it down with the win data:

It’s a lot harder to find positives when looking solely at win data but Walk In The Mill and Minellacelebration are once again relatively strong and it’s also worth noting that Give Me Copper is amongst the better scorers, albeit with limited data.

Further Analysis

We have to start with last year’s 1st and 2nd, Walk In The Mill and Kimberlite Candy.

Walk In The Mill, despite often being ridden patiently, has won this from mid division and from a prominent position in the past two years. He’s now 12lbs higher than when taking this two years ago and 8lbs higher than twelve months ago. He was also 4th in the 2019 Grand National so is clearly well at home here.

He was beaten 22 lengths and pulled up on his two prep runs for this race in the past so his recent run has once again followed suit and he’ll undoubtedly be primed for this. He wears cheekpieces for just the second time in his career, the first was in this last year when racing more prominently than he often does. The cheekpieces once again should give him a bit more extra early spark.

He beat Kimberlite Candy by 2.5 lengths last year giving Kimberlite Candy 4lbs. Kimberlite Candy has since won at Warwick by 10 lengths meaning he’ll now be 8lbs worse off with Walk In The Mill this time around.

Kimberlite Candy is the more lightly raced of the pair and should still have further improvement but with both at similar prices it’s difficult not to side with Walk In The Mill. Kimberlite Candy’s record first time out in the past four years is 1512 so his absence shouldn’t be much of a concern and he’s only raced twice in cheekpieces, finishing first and second in big races.

Ramses De Teillee has won three of his past five races and has finished runner up in a couple of big field chases. He should be well placed in this race and is proven in conditions and over staying trips. He was pulled up on his only try over these fences but he went okay for a long time and was eventually pulled up because the jockey’s reins had snapped. He certainly can't be ruled out.

He’s closely matched with Yala Enke, who he beat a short head last time out. Yala Enke is a pound better off and is another who should be well placed in this. He has no form over the National fences which is a slight put off and he appears to be a very dour stayer who could be one more for the Grand National itself if proving himself over the fences here.

Coo Star Sivola is yet another who should be suited by the run of the race but he also has never run over these fences before. He hasn’t run particularly well on his last three runs either so looks short enough.

Calett Mad stays very well and goes on any ground but has to defy an almost two year absence here. This may well be a sighter for the big one in April.

Give Me Copper was noted as performing well in Instant Expert and he comes here off the back of a wind op. He’s not the most consistent but he’s another who won’t be too far off the pace and he’s not completely handicapped out of this. If you fancy this one he may be more of a win only bet than each way despite the price.

Minellacelebration was the other very interesting runner from the view of Instant Expert. He won a handicap on the Mildmay course by 14 lengths back in October and has been raised 12lbs off the back of that. He seems to have improved from a wind op twelve months ago, possibly needing his next run but following that up with a second place and two wins. He did run poorly in this last year but that was just before his wind op and he’s otherwise won three from four at this venue and finished runner up in his other race. He did at least complete last year over these fences so if you can put that performance down to his wind he'd have a very good chance, for all he has to prove himself off this kind of mark.

The other runner worth a mention is Vieux Lion Rouge. He did score poorly in Instant Expert and ran poorly in this last year but he was second to Walk In The Mill two years ago and is now 18lbs better off. He hasn’t been at his best on his recent runs and was well beaten by Minellacelebration last time out so it’s entirely possible age is catching up with him now.

Verdict

Very unoriginal but the two most interesting runners here are two of the favourites, Walk In The Mill and Kimberlite Candy. The swing in the weights leaves two time winner Walk In The Mill the better handicapped of the pair.

Le Breuil seems much easier to take on and the best of the each way brigade seems to be the interesting Minellacelebration who does still have to prove himself over these fences and off this mark but he seems most likely to gatecrash the party if anything does.

Lacey sweet on Becher bid for Kimberlite Candy

Tom Lacey has another Becher Chase bid in mind for last year’s runner-up Kimberlite Candy.

The eight-year-old finished two and a half lengths behind dual Becher hero Walk In The Mill in the three-and-a-quarter-mile contest 12 months ago.

Lacey is now planning to return to Aintree on December 5 to take on the same race over the National fences.

“He’ll go for the Becher Chase, he’s in great nick, we’re really pleased with him,” he said.

“I’d have to refresh my memory, I think he went up for winning the Classic Chase and then he got another 2lb when The Conditional won at the Festival. That leaves him several pounds higher than he was going into the Becher Chase last season.”

After his Becher performance and an emphatic win in the Grade Three Classic Chase at Warwick, Lacey’s charge looked like a Grand National contender before the meeting was cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Lacey has the marathon race pencilled in once again for the JP McManus-owned gelding, providing the Aintree going conditions are sufficiently soft.

“It would be the plan, but I think we’d be reliant on a wet spring,” he said.

“I think he would have run last year, it was drying up beforehand and the weather was just going against us initially, but they do a very good job of watering at Aintree.

“I think you see the best of him with some juice in the ground.”

Sebastopol (right) is heading for the Greatwood Hurdle
Sebastopol (right) is heading for the Greatwood Hurdle (Jeff Holmes/PA)

The Woolhope handler plans to give Scottish County Hurdle winner Sebastopol an outing in the Grade Three Unibet Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham on Sunday.

He said: “I’m very keen to have a go at the Greatwood with Sebastopol. If he is going to competitive this season, he has got to be in some of those decent handicap hurdles. He is immensely talented and I think ultimately we will end up going up in trip with him.

“A race like the Greatwood though, they will go flat out and it should be run to suit him.”

Stablemate Tea Clipper could bid to back up his Silver Trophy success from Chepstow at Cheltenham on Saturday.

Lacey added: “Tea Clipper could go to Cheltenham for the Listed hurdle there next weekend or we might wait for Haydock in what was the fixed brush hurdle.  I was really pleased with the way he picked up again at Chepstow.

“His hurdling probably needs to be slicker as he spends a lot of time in the air at his hurdles.

“Had he not won the Silver Trophy, we would have probably campaigned him over fences, but as he has won that we ought to campaign him over hurdles.”

Race Histories 12: The Becher Chase

Hello Bud - age no barrier in the Becher

Hello Bud - age no barrier in the Becher

The Grand National fences have their first test of the season on Saturday, when the Becher chase is run over 3 miles 2 furlongs at Aintree. The race starts immediately after Valentines Brook, so is just shy of one and a half circuits of the National Course. Read more