Tag Archive for: Snow Leopardess

2024 Becher Chase Trends

The Becher Chase is run at Aintree racecourse over the historic Grand National-style fences and, therefore, provides punters with some early-season clues ahead of the world’s most famous steeplechase.

Run over the 3m2f the race has been won six times by trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies, while Silver Birch and Amberleigh House are recent winners of the Becher Chase then went on later in their careers to land the Grand National too.

In 2022, the Dan Skelton-trained Ashtown Lad won the race, while in 2023 Chambard won at 18/1 under jockey Lucy Turner as she became the first female winning rider in the race.

Here at GeeGeez we look back at recent winners and gives you the key trends to look out for ahead of the 2024 renewal.

Recent Becher Chase Winners

2023 - CHAMBARD (18/1)
2022 – ASHTOWN LAD (5/1)
2021 – SNOW LEOPARDESS (4/1 fav)
2020 - VIEUX LION ROUGE (12/1)
2019 – WALK IN THE MILL (8/1)
2018 – WALK IN THE MILL (10/1)
2017 – BLAKLION (7/4 fav)
2016 – VIEUX LION ROUGE (8/1 fav)
2015 – HIGHLAND LODGE (20/1)
2014 – OSCAR TIME (25/1)
2013 – CHANCE DU ROY (14/1)
2012 – HELLO BUD (14/1)
2011 – WEST END ROCKER (10/1)
2010 – HELLO BUD (15/2 fav)
2009 – VIC VENTURI (7/1)
2008 – BLACK APALACHI (15/2)
2007 – MR POINTMENT (15/2)
2006 – EUROTREK (25/1)
2005 – GARVIVONNIAN (33/1)
2004 – SILVER BIRCH (4/1 fav)
2003 – CLAN ROYAL (11/2)
2002 – ARDENT SCOUT (14/1)

Becher Chase Betting Trends

20/22 - Aged 8+
18/22 – Had won between 2-5 times over fences before
18/22 – Had won over at least 3m (fences) before
18/22 – Had no more than 1 start that season
17/22 – Had raced within the last 7 weeks
17/22 – Carried 10-12 or less
16/22 – Aged 9 or older
14/22 – Had run over these Grand National-style fences before
13/22 – Officially rated between 123-138
12/22 – Irish-bred winners
11/22 – Went onto finish unplaced in that season’s Grand National
12/22 – Returned a double-figure price in the betting
10/22 – Placed favourites
8/22 – Ran in the previous season’s Grand National
5/22– Winning favourites
4/22 – Won last time out
3/22– Trained by Paul Nicholls
3/22 – Irish-trained winners
3/22– Trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies
1/22 – Went onto win the Grand National later in their career
0/22 – Went onto win the Grand National that same season
The average winning SP in the last 21 years is 12/1
Trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies has won the race 6 times since 1993
Chambard (18/1) won the race in 2023
Ashdown Lad (5/1) won the race in 2022

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Popular mare Snow Leopardess retired to stud

Charlie Longsdon’s much-loved staying chaser Snow Leopardess has been retired.

The mare was a unique figure amongst National Hunt horses as she had a foal in the earlier stages of her career and then returned to training.

The grey was owned by the Fox-Pitt family and bred by Marietta Fox-Pitt, mother of event rider William and mother-in-law to broadcaster and former rider Alice Plunkett.

Snow Leopardess won nine times throughout her career, including in bumpers, over hurdles and fences.

Those victories included a Listed win in the Virgin Bet Mares’ Chase at Exeter and a memorable Grade Three triumph after a fantastic round of jumping in the 2021 Becher Chase.

Snow Leopardess winning the Becher Chase
Snow Leopardess winning the Becher Chase (Tim Goode/PA)

She was also narrowly beaten in both the Haydock Grand National Trial and Wetherby’s Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase, as well as latterly turning her hand to the cross-country course at Cheltenham.

“She’s retired now, she’s back home and she just didn’t owe us anything,” Longsdon said.

“She had a few soundness issues at the end but she’s just been the most amazing servant.

“She’s with Mrs Fox Pitt, Alice’s mother-in-law, and she’ll go to stud in the spring.

“All good things have to come to an end. They were amazing days, a lot of fun.”

Snow Leopardess earlier in her career
Snow Leopardess earlier in her career (Mike Egerton/PA)

The foal Snow Leopardess had during the break in her career was a filly by Sir Percy named Red Panda, who is in training with Longsdon and will make her bumper debut in the early stages of the season.

“We’ve got her daughter in training now and hopefully we’ll have more of her family in years to come,” the trainer said.

“Red Panda is only a youngster and she’ll probably start in a bumper in a month or six weeks’ time.”



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Longsdon ‘delighted’ after Snow Leopardess’ Cheltenham spin

Charlie Longsdon’s Snow Leopardess has Cheltenham and Haydock options after her pleasing cross country debut.

The mare gained herself plenty of fans last season when claiming three successive victories that included the Becher Chase at Aintree and the Virgin Bet Mares’ Chase at Exeter.

Heading into the Grand National as a 10-1 chance as a result, Snow Leopardess was pulled up in the big race and then struggled hit last season’s form when starting out this term.

Longsdon decided to give the grey a run over Cheltenham’s cross country track to see if that could bring about an improvement and the 11-year-old seemed to take to the task well last Saturday.

Snow Leopardess at Haydock
Snow Leopardess at Haydock (Mike Egerton/PA)

Leading into the final bend after a solid round of jumping, Snow Leopardess faded slightly up the hill to finish an eventual sixth but still impressed enough to gain herself an entry for the Cheltenham Festival version of the race.

“I was delighted with her run at Cheltenham. It was her first time over those fences and she was a bit slow over a couple and looked at a few but she did seem to love it,” Longsdon said.

“She had I great time I think. If you rode her round again, you’d probably try to press on a bit more because that’s the way she likes to win her races, but for her first time over the fences, I couldn’t have been happier.

“She is in the Grand National Trial at Haydock and we will enter her for the cross country race at the Cheltenham Festival – we’ll see.”



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Ramses ready to roll in competitive veterans’ final

David Pipe believes Ramses De Teillee has a fine chance of landing the Unibet Veterans’ Handicap Chase at Sandown if in the same form as his Warwick reappearance.

It is seven years since the Pond House handler won the inaugural running of the popular veterans’ series finale with Soll – and he appears to have found a horse who fits the bill to add to his tally in the form of the dashing front-running grey.

The 11-year-old galloped the opposition into submission on his veterans’ chase debut in November and with rain forecast for the Esher venue on race day, conditions could be perfect for the five-time fences winner.

Pipe said: “He won well at Warwick and is in good form at home and if the Ramses of Warwick turns up he’ll have a great chance.

“They are great races these veterans’ races and it is great to see the final well supported.”

On Ramses De Teillee having to shoulder top-weight in the £100,000 staying contest, Pipe added: “He’s earned the right and deserved it. He’s 11-years-old, but he’s full of life at home and it will be soft enough for him.”

Another grey in the field is Charlie Longsdon’s popular mare Snow Leopardess, who was among the market principals for last year’s Grand National.

She also made her return at Warwick in the race won by Ramses De Teillee, but only got as far as the first when pulled up by Aidan Coleman having slipped and made a mistake.

The 11-year-old finally got a run under her belt when eighth in the Becher Chase over the National fences and Longsdon is hoping to see plenty of rain fall before the off in a race he won with Pete The Fete in 2017.

Aintree Races – Saturday 4th December
Snow Leopardess ridden by Aidan Coleman (right) clears The Chair before going on to win the Unibet Becher Handicap Chase at Aintree in 2021 (Tim Goode/PA)

He said: “We’re looking forward to it and the more rain the better.

“It is a very, very strong race and an 18-runner field, but she seems to like the attritional going and with the rain forecast for Saturday, hopefully that will come and we’ll be happy. It will slow the rest of them down.

“We’ve had some luck in the race in the past and we’ve had some great times with old Pete The Fete and Loose Chips, but the race is a lot stronger now.

“I’m looking forward to it and with the rain around hopefully she can run well.”

The race was won 12 months ago by Evan Williams’ Prime Venture, who returns off the same mark to defend his crown and with the Welsh handler keen to keep supporting a race that often lights up a bleak January afternoon.

He said: “He’s been a great horse, he’s been placed in Welsh Nationals, he won this race last year and he’s been a very good fun horse, a smashing horse.

“It’s nice to get back there (Sandown) and we think it’s a great initiative, so it’s great to be having a nice horse running in the race for some good prize-money. It’s a race we like to try to support and it’s very popular.”

Harry Fry’s Sir Ivan was third in the race last year and returns off an 11lb lower mark following a third at Fontwell last month, while Crosspark has also gone close in the past finishing a length second in 2021.

One who does head to the race in rude health is Richard Hobson’s Saint Xavier, who romped home from Nick Alexander’s reopposing Up Helly Aa King at Haydock in November and could continue the fine run of in-form jockey Lilly Pinchin.

“Saint Xavier is absolutely flying, I’m really pleased with him,” said Hobson. “I can’t wait to run him and I think he’ll handle Sandown.

“He seem to like those flat tracks, Haydock or Auteuil, which isn’t that flat but is only slightly undulating.

“He jumps like a bunny, he’s in great order, he’s got a lovely weight, a good jockey – we’re hoping for a big run.

“He jumped super and beat a Welsh National winner (last time out), he’s got 10st 2lb on his back with Lilly’s claim and he’s a classy horse in his own right.”



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Monday Musings: Having a mare for the National

He could hardly have stage-managed it any better, writes Tony Stafford. Trainer Charlie Longsdon faces five days of anxiety and excitement as he prepares his grey mare, Snow Leopardess, to attempt what will be a doubly unique achievement in Saturday’s Randox Grand National.

Not only is the ten-year-old a mare and a grey to boot, but also uniquely one that has had a foal which has now reached racing age.

For the record – repeating (and I hope accurately) facts I trotted out when the aim was mooted a few weeks back – there have been 13 winning mares of Liverpool’s great race, but only two, Sheila’s Cottage (1948) and Nickel Coin three years later, in the past 120 years.

Three grey horses have won the race in its 183-year history since Lottery won the inaugural race in 1839. The Lamb in 1868 and 1871, Nicolaus Silver in 1961, and Paul Nicholls’ Neptune Collonges ten years ago, were the trio.

As far as I know none of the first 11 winners taking us up to 1902 had a foal, but in those days of milk-cart pullers turning up to have a go round the fences having walked miles to get there, who can say?

Snow Leopardess fulfils all three requirements and can also boast a win around the Aintree fences – in the Becher Chase, the middle of three unblemished appearances this season. And as if the portents hadn’t been positive already, having been some way out of the top 40 before her last win at Exeter, withdrawals mean she is safely in at number 38.

Longsdon sent her to that mares’ Listed race to gain the few extra pounds he reckoned it would take to guarantee her place in the field, but the jumps handicapper was unimpressed, leaving her unchanged on 145 after a ten-length romp. The Grand National gets special treatment and she resides there 1lb higher and, in these days of blanket Irish entries, it was just as well.

Looking at the race I think we should deal not much lower than the top 40 as it would take an idiot to neglect the opportunity to run for half a million sterling on a track presently officially good to soft and with a few showers to top it up. So little used, Aintree’s Grand National course invariably offers a sympathetic surface.

When the dry spell was continuing, the prospect of fast ground on Saturday was a worry for Longsdon, but if it stays as advertised she should be fine. Also, she is ideally placed, right at the bottom of the weights and therefore not in danger from a lightweight taking advantage of a hefty weight allowance.

The make-up of the race is interesting. Looking at the top 40 horses, 24 are trained in Ireland and 16 in the UK. Gordon Elliott (or rather owner Michael O’Leary) has declined to allow Tiger Roll to attempt the Red Rum-equalling third win, but they do have Delta Work, the horse that beat him in that thrilling battle in last month’s Cheltenham Foxhunters, to carry the maroon and white colours.

Delta Work, 8-1 equal-favourite at this stage with compatriot Any Second Now (Ted Walsh/J P McManus) and Snow Leopardess, is one of eight Elliott horses, all in the top 22, which can represent the trainer.

While he is no longer pilloried for the events which led to a suspension last year, he must have found Cheltenham an ordeal as he watched his great rival and obvious role model Willie Mullins winning ten races at the Festival. Mullins has a low-key trio (among the top 40) in on Saturday of which Burrows Saint looks his best chance.

If he had not run his last race, when beaten miles in third behind close contenders Any Second Now and Elliott’s Escaria Ten, Burrows Saint would surely have been higher in the market especially as he started favourite that day. He remains one under the radar and everyone knows Mullins’ capability of pulling rabbits out of hats.

It’s always fun to hear trainers and owners moaning about their horses’ treatment at the Grand National weights unveiling and Henry De Bromhead duly joined that group in complaining that Minella Times, last year’s record-breaking winner under Rachael Blackmore, had too much weight.

Pointing to this year’s two runs – a pulled up and then a fall as evidence – he reckoned he should not have been higher than when running in those two races. I am 100% behind the handicapper and 2lb for the long-established Aintree factor looks fair enough for me, especially remembering how easily he won last year’s race for J P McManus.

There is no incentive for trainers guaranteed to get their horses in the race to over-exert them in the season leading up to it, but I think Colin Tizzard deserves credit for the attacking policy he has pursued with Fiddlerontheroof, runner-up giving away plenty of weight in last November’s Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury.

The Fiddler then went to Ascot for an excellent second to Fortescue in the Swinley Chase attempting to concede 17lb. He jumped the last in front of Henry Daly’s horse and subsequent revelation that he lost a shoe possibly enhances the merit of the performance.

Sometimes one modest run is enough to convince the betting public that a horse’s improvement may have come to an end. When Chatham Street Lad toiled home 22 and again 22 lengths third behind A Plus Tard and Royale Pagaille in the Betfair Chase at Haydock in November, he immediately dropped out of the subconscious.

But Michael Winters, his trainer, is a dab hand at the big races and it is probably wise to remember the ease of his runaway Cheltenham win in December 2020 and last May’s equally impressive victory in a Graded chase at Limerick.

A combination of Kauto Star and Denman would not have stopped A Plus Tard that day, nor indeed at Cheltenham last month when he was the most impressive of Gold Cup winners. Chatham Street Lad is my best outsider.

De Bromhead got A Plus Tard back to that peak – and what a peak! - at the right time for Cheltenham after a hit-and-miss campaign for much of the winter, and now you have to think Minella Times will have been precisely and single-mindedly aimed at this second shot. Repeat wins are less infrequent than you might think, and he could easily do it again. Imagine the noise if they did. Champion Hurdle, Gold Cup and another Grand National for Rachael in the space of three weeks? It could easily happen.

Apologies for another truncated offering – trouble getting my Internet sorted! – but I must end with a salute to Christian Williams and his achievement in supplying the first two in the Scottish Grand National last weekend.

His nine-year-old mare, Win My Wings, was held up a long way back for much of the four miles at Ayr but came through strongly in the straight. Leading halfway down she moved easily into the lead and scooted clear of stable-mate Kitty’s Light in a show of complete control.

Williams can now be sure she will be raised enough to qualify rating-wise for next year’s Grand National proper – her 140 will be raised at least to 150 unless the official was looking elsewhere on Saturday.

In the meantime a mare one year senior to her will have her chance to make the headlines and history. I hope Snow Leopardess can add a final accolade to her already impressive tally of achievement and win the Grand National. Chatham Street Lad, Fiddlerontheroof and Minella Times complete my four for the exotics. Good luck to everyone and let’s hope they all come home safe and sound.

- TS



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Monday Musings: Snow’s Got a White National Chance

Yesterday, high up on Haldon Hill overlooking Exeter the mist rolled in as winter rainfall finally reached jumping racecourses after a frustratingly dry New Year, writes Tony Stafford. Shining through the murk as she always does and stealing the show was an old mare, nominally grey but in effect as white as the caps that J P McManus’s first strings sport on the racecourses of the UK and Ireland.

J P was cleaning up this weekend with a treble a day at Naas and Punchestown, but those exploits and the 3,000 and a fair few wins he already owns will hardly matter a jot if the said 10-year-old grand lady, Snow Leopardess to you and me, wins the 2022 Grand National.

Since 1839 when Lottery set the ball rolling in the world’s best jumps race ever challenged for, only 13 mares have won it. In the race’s early days there were loads, ten in the first 50 years. That makes it three – that’s right only three – in the next century and a third! After Frigate (number ten) in 1889, there’s only been Shannon Lass (1902), Sheila’s Cottage in 1948 and Nickel Coin in 1951.

Unless you’re almost as old as me you would not have been around for any of them – unlike me, here for the last two. But I hadn’t yet begun my interest in racing – that came with the following year’s King George VI Chase which we used to watch on my great-uncle’s television when we went to their big house at Christmas – so it starts with the Galloway Braes and Halloween battles between 1952 and 1954.

I suppose you can say I was as much brain-washed to county cricket at the Oval, football at Highbury, and racing everywhere from the early-1950’s to an extent that others might be fed politics of a certain standpoint and other life-defining attitudes.

Seventy years on, those three pastimes, nay obsessions, are intact and if anything reinforced by having had the opportunity to write about them. Thus when a Snow Leopardess comes along I think we should give full credit to the mare herself; the owners who bred her dam to a wonderful stallion, and her trainer Charlie Longsdon, who has guided her to an already exceptional series of achievements. If the final one happens, his role will only then be fully appreciated.

Charlie likes winning first time out with his horses – you only have to look as far back as Saturday at Warwick to see how Gaelic Park: “not really a bumper horse, more a galloper”, as he suggested, bolted up first time.

Two weeks short of six years ago, the daughter of the brilliant French jumps stallion Martaline made a winning debut at Doncaster, seeing off the heavily-backed Nicky Henderson-trained Rather Be. Charlie was Hendo-trained too – he was his former assistant.

There were a couple of highlights in her early days. One fifth place in the Aintree bumper spelt enough for her first season, but then she was shipped out first time next autumn for a valuable Listed bumper at Gowran Park and beat a Gordon Elliott mare and 18 others to pick up a €20k prize.

She was at it again at the end of that season, having in between won one minor hurdle race at Doncaster at 9/2 on. Here again she came home clear of a big field (16 runners this time) to win the EBF Mares’ handicap hurdle final at Newbury that March. The prize? another £22k.

Now, Snow Leopardess likes nothing more than winning first time sent to a new country, so after a six-month break Charlie despatched her to Auteuil for a conditions hurdle for, you guessed it, €21k. She duly beat seven rivals under James Reveley but unfortunately that’s where she sustained the injury that promised to end her career.

Snow Leopardess and her owners the Fox-Pitt family, though, do not believe in standing idle and, while recuperating, the mare was sent to Derby-winning stallion Sir Percy, the product of that union arriving early in 2019.

Amazingly, 26 months on from that ill-fated albeit winning trip to France she was back in action for a truncated twice unplaced campaign. She still the added one victory to her previous five in eight last term and also ran a remarkable race when finishing fourth in the National Hunt Chase, having lost her place when briefly outpaced on the faster than ideal ground. Nothing finished better than her as she chased 2022 Gold Cup candidate Galvin up the hill.

The story has developed apace this winter. After winning a nice handicap chase at Bangor – no she’d been there once before so the new country syndrome was not in operation this time – she then showed the most carefree disdain of the Aintree fences when dominating most of the three and a quarter mile Becher Chase in soft ground ten weeks ago. The Aintree run-in was another matter.

Her stride was understandably shortening in those last demanding yards but the nose by which she bravely held on was never more deserved. Switching back to a conventional three miles yesterday at Exeter for her first try at Listed class over fences might have been a pitfall waiting to happen but where her opposition of experienced and prolific-winning steeplechasers dropped away one by one, she slogged through the mud for a 12-length success.

A deserved increase (“not too high!” says Charlie) in her 145 rating should ensure she gets in the field come April and as Longsdon said afterwards: “We have to hope for a wet spring.”

Her career tally from only 19 starts is a remarkable nine successes at a rate that is very high up among the best products of Martaline. It would be very tidy if she could make it 50% at Aintree.

She jumped some of yesterday’s fences with feet to spare and I remember marvelling at the way she was clearing the fences in the Becher Chase. While not as formidable as in the bad old days, you still have to jump 30 of them and, Tiger Roll apart if he shows this time, there won’t be a horse better equipped to handle them, or the stamina test needed if it does turn soft.

As I said earlier, only three mares during the last 132 years have won the Grand National. Equally amazingly in its entire history only three grey horses have ever won it, The Lamb, twice in 1868 and 1871; Nicolaus Silver (1961) which my dad told me he’d backed after I got home from playing in the London Grammar Schools six-a side football championships at Chiswick that morning, and Neptune Collonges in 2012.

Snow Leopardess is already guaranteed one distinction if she does succeed. She’ll be the first grey mare to win it. Probably the early winning mares, namely Charity (1841), Miss Mowbray (1852), Anatis (1860), Jealousy (1861), Emblem (1863) or Emblematic the following year would have had other duties to perform.

Assuredly they would have been worked on farms, maybe pulled the milkman’s float or the brewer’s dray and then needed to be walked however many miles from their home base to Liverpool for their big race day. It could well be the case that one or more of them might have had a foal, but we can say for sure that Snow Leopardess would be doubly unique – the first grey mare to win the race and the first to add having a foal to that singular distinction.

As the enormity of the potential situation gathers momentum, rather in the manner of Andrew Gemmell three years ago when Paisley Park won his Stayers’ Hurdle, or through Rachael Blackmore’s domination of Cheltenham last year, you can expect a media barrage. Charlie, I hope you are ready for it.

Dermot Weld duly won with his Cheltenham possible Falcon Eight in his novice test at Thurles on Thursday. Having looked to have a lot to do half a mile from home, magically he had completely eroded the gap from the leaders in a trice. You were allowed to see just a glimpse of the class he showed in winning the Chester Cup off 104 last May and a little brushing up of the jumping technique could produce another giant step forward.

My friends who have the 33/1 run guaranteed for the Albert Bartlett on the Friday will be hoping for dry weather. The beauty is, having backed him for Thurles, they know canny Dermot will not let him run if it turns soft at Prestbury Park so they are in a win/win situation. Especially if he win wins!

Focus this week is on my long-term boss Raymond Tooth’s return to ownership with the Ian Williams-trained Glen Again who makes his hurdles debut at Fontwell on Thursday. If he runs as fast and jumps as beautifully as he looks – which the trainer suggests he might – Ray could have some fun for the rest of this season and for a few more. Fingers crossed, as they say!

- TS



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