Tag Archive for: Vieux Lion Rouge

Scudamore pays tribute as Vieux Lion Rouge is retired

Tom Scudamore paid handsome tribute to popular staying chaser Vieux Lion Rouge, who has been retired after a successful career spanning 10 years.

Trainer David Pipe has called time on the 13-year-old’s racing days after he was pulled up in the Last Fling Handicap Chase at Haydock last week.

Vieux Lion Rouge was a standing dish at Aintree where he won the Becher Chase twice in six attempts and made five appearances in the Grand National with a best-placed sixth in 2017.

“He’s been a fantastic servant to the yard, to Caroline (Tisdall), to John (Gent, owners) and David (Pipe) and myself,” Scudamore told Sky Sports Racing.

“He gave us so many happy days and it was extraordinary to think that the big gangly three-year-old I won a bumper on over a mile and a half at Newbury went on to achieve what he did.

“The funny thing with him was that he wasn’t a natural jumper. Over hurdles he was a bit awkward and over fences to begin with you wouldn’t have put him down as a National horse.

“He actually ran in the National as a novice the first time. I remember schooling him over the National fences and he was just awesome – but I was dreading it a little bit if I’m honest as he wasn’t a natural but they made a man of him and he never looked back – he was such an intelligent horse.

“Caroline is a great supporter of National Hunt racing and the Grand National so for Vieux to come along so early was great for her and John.

“I think he holds the record for most Grand National fences jumped and I won more races (11) on him than any other horse so he holds a special place in my heart.”

Vieux Lion Rouge won 13 of his 41 starts and earned £344,777 in prize money in a career that began in December 2012.

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.

12 months ago, in 2020, the David Pipe-trained Vieux Lion Rouge won the race for a second time and despite now being a 12 year-old could be back for more in 2021.

Here at GeeGeez we look back at recent winners and gives you the key trends to look out for ahead of the 2021 renewal, this year run on Saturday 4th December.


Recent Becher Chase Winners

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

15/19 – Had won between 2-5 times over fences before
15/19 – Carried 10-12 or less
15/19 – Had won over at least 3m (fences) before
15/19 – Had no more than 1 start that season
14/19 – Had raced within the last 7 weeks
14/19 – Had run over these Grand National-style fences before
13/19 – Aged 9 or older
12/19 – Officially rated between 123-138
12/19 – Officially rated between 123-138
11/19 – Irish-bred winners
11/19 – Went onto finish unplaced in that season’s Grand National
11/19 – Returned a double-figure price in the betting
8/19 – Ran in the previous season’s Grand National
8/19 – Placed favourites
4/19 – Winning favourites
3/19 – Trained by Paul Nicholls
3/19 – Irish-trained winners
3/19 – Won last time out
3/19 – Trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies
1/19 – Went onto win the Grand National later in their career
0/19 – Went onto win the Grand National that same season
The average winning SP in the last 19 years is 12/1
Trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies has won the race 6 times since 1993
Vieux Lion Rouge won the race in 2016 and 2020








Monday Musings: Trying Times

Suddenly it’s all back – for some of us anyway, writes Tony Stafford. Ice rinks – yes, I have to be aware of those! – football stadia and racecourses can now have participants and visitors, within strict limits of course. My mate Scott was able – after some manoeuvring – to take up his annual quest to Sandown Park for the Tingle Creek meeting.

He chose to get from deepest Essex (well Shenfield) to Esher by public transport and the hourly service from Waterloo was a bind as inevitably train times were synchronised not to gel with races. It was a proper full day’s excursion and not without its difficulties as well as cost.

It was £30 for his grandstand ticket and as someone who with his pals, especially at Cheltenham, his version of some people’s pilgrimage to Mecca or Lourdes, will normally sprinkle his race viewing with imbibing. The rules for alcohol consumption on racecourses just as in hostelries in tier 2 are equally as strict. “I fancied a pint,” relates Scott, “So I went to the food outlet where drinks can only be bought to accompany a meal. There was no lager on draught so for a pint it had to be two half-pint bottles at £5.20 each alongside pasty, chips, mushy peas and gravy for £8.50. Almost £20 a shot and if I’d wanted another pint it would have been same again, as I couldn’t have got them without a second meal.

“One friend, who went there on Friday, had three pints, so three lots of pasty, chips, mushy peas and gravy. I’m not sure if he made it back again on Saturday!” said Scott.

Winner-finding was difficult from the outset and, like many punters on the day, the pleasure of getting back racing had its less enjoyable moments. Scott can at least rest assured that his day would not have been anywhere near as frustrating as Nicky Henderson’s. The multi-champion trainer must have had misgivings when deciding to withdraw Altior from the big race the night before because of the testing ground, but he still went to the track with three short-priced favourites at Sandown as well as his Gold Cup hope Santini returning to action in a Grade 2 chase at Aintree.

Sandown’s litany of shocks started early. Pars in the Middleham Park colours was 7/4 on to defy the penalty earned by his debut win in a €15k Dieppe juvenile hurdle back in March, but was a well-beaten fourth behind three more French-breds, led home by Fergal O’Brien’s Elham Valley, who won readily.

Surely there were to be no mistakes in the next, a National Hunt novice hurdle in which Grand Mogul, twice a winner, faced three rivals, two of them newcomers, and started 2/11. Nico De Boinville had him in the first two from the start and he had seemed to have got the better of Pride of Pemberthy, the only one of the other trio to have raced previously, when the Gary Moore-trained Golden Boy Grey, another French-bred, suddenly arrived at the last galloping all over him. Golden Boy Grey went on to win by nine lengths in the style of a fair performer, whatever reasons could be found for the favourite’s tame acceptance of his fate from the last flight.

With no runner in the Tingle Creek, Nicky would have been able to switch his attentions to Aintree for Santini’s first appearance since going under by only a neck to repeat Gold Cup winner Al Boum Photo back in March.

He did have a former God Cup winner in Native River to beat and in having a couple of lengths in hand of him was creditable enough first time back. Less easy to swallow must have been his failure to beat 16-1 shot Lake View Lad, ridden by champion Brian Hughes and trained in Scotland by Nick Alexander. Lake View Lad was receiving 6lb on Saturday and was 12lb wrong at the weights with the 172-rated favourite. The winner, a ten-year-old who carries the Trevor Hemmings colours, must inevitably come into focus for a Grand National challenge after this.

The National fences were in use twice on Saturday and seemed to be back to a much more formidable status in both the William Hill-sponsored Becher and Grand Sefton Handicap Chases. Henderson’s Might Bite, who was second in Native River’s 2017 Gold Cup, has only occasionally shown anything like that level since and he appeared to have a clear dislike of the obstacles which led to an early pulling up by Jeremiah McGrath. So it was left to Sandown’s finale, a valuable handicap hurdle, if Henderson was going to salvage a spot of consolation from a dreadful day.

The punters, including Scott by all accounts, went in with both feet on 6-4 shot Mister Coffee, an alarmingly-easy winner of his last race over course and distance a month earlier and raised 10lb for this tough handicap hurdle. His late run never looked like matching that of in-form Benson, who completed a hat-trick for himself and an across-the-card double for Dr Richard Newland. The doctor’s love affair with the Aintree fences had continued a few minutes earlier with the 20-1 success of Beau Bay under Charlie Hammond in the Grand Sefton.

The Sandown race had been shaped by the predictably-fast pace set in the early stages by Totterdown, twice a course and distance winner, but reckoned by the Fergal O’Brien stable to be at the limit of his handicap potential. His mark will need to come down, and two earlier tries this year over fences have not revealed a similar level of talent in that discipline.

That reverse did nothing to take the gloss off a memorable day for this stable. Just a year since he moved from his original premises rented from his former boss Nigel Twiston-Davies, O’Brien’s progress is such that he is needing to take temporary use of a 30-box barn at Graeme McPherson’s stables while development of his own base continues – “it’s like a muddy building site at the moment”, says Fergal’s assistant and partner, Sally Randell.

Earlier they were celebrating Elham Valley’s win, yet another example of how they improve horses from elsewhere. Beautifully-schooled for this debut, the 70-odd rated Flat performer came smoothly through under Paddy Brennan to bring the stable tally to 63 for the season. “That equals our best score set last year,” says Sally. With five months of the season to go, a first century must be in the offing, not wishing to jinx it, of course.

There can only have been one highlight of the day, though, the unchallenged victory of the David Pipe-trained Vieux Lion Rouge in the Becher Chase over three and a quarter miles and 21 fences of the Grand National course. Now an 11-year-old, Vieux Lion Rouge won on his first try in the race four years ago, by which time he’d already run in the previous April’s Grand National won by Rule The World.

Opportunities for tackling Aintree’s National fences don’t come very often. It’s feasible, but very rare for a horse to run twice at a Grand National meeting, needing a run either in the Topham or Foxhunters as well as the big race. Back in 1977 Churchtown Boy won the Topham on the Thursday and then finished runner-up as Red Rum completed his third and final Grand National victory, to which he could add two second places in between the second and third wins.

Vieux Lion Rouge, owned by Professor Caroline Tisdall and John Gent, has run nine times around the Grand National course – it would have been ten without a break, no doubt, had the 2020 Grand National been run. Twice the big race has needed to have one of its 30 fences omitted for safety reasons, so Vieux Lion Rouge has navigated safely over an almost-unimaginable total of 223 fences without mishap. The one blemish on his safe jumping career was an unseat of Tom Scudamore three fences out one day at Chepstow when he was still in with a chance of winning. Two pulled ups also slightly mar his otherwise excellent completion record in all races.

Considering he must now be regarded as an Aintree specialist, the fact that he has won 11 of his 27 other races, between bumpers, hurdles and chases, as well as the two around the big fences, speaks volumes for his versatility, talent and the trainer’s skill. Tom Scudamore must have been livid to have been on the Pipe’s stable’s apparently better-fancied Ramses De Teillee on Saturday, a 13-2 shot against the 12-1 SP of the winner. That made it still only eight times in the gelding’s long career that Scudamore had not partnered him. That also included his first Grand National challenge back in 2016 when James Reveley was in the saddle. Tom has been on the gelding on all his other Aintree excursions.

For a few years I’d been thinking that Aintree had become relatively soft, something that the old timers regularly trot out. That wasn’t the case on Saturday, possibly with the testing ground contributing to the potential for errors and fatigue. That this old boy could canter round behind but in touch with a very strong field, go to the front easily by the second-last fence and draw 24 lengths clear up the run-in was a marvellous display and brilliant advertisement for the talents of David Pipe and of course a certain older member of the family who still keeps careful watch on events equine down in Somerset.

- TS

Vieux Lion Rouge roars again in Becher Chase

Vieux Lion Rouge rolled back the years to win the William Hill Becher Handicap Chase for a second time at Aintree.

Successful in 2016, the 11-year-old was making his fifth consecutive appearance in the race and ninth overall over the famous Grand National fences.

Jumping into the lead at the second-last in the hands of Conor O’Farrell, the David Pipe-trained 12-1 chance galloped away from the opposition to land the spoils by 24 lengths. Kimberlite Candy was second for the second year running, with Le Breuil four and three-quarter lengths away in third place.

There was drama from the outset, with Yala Enki falling at the first and Walk In The Mill – winner for the last two years – exiting at the Chair along with Coo Star Sivola, while Minellacelebration stumbled and unseated Ben Poste as the the field was about to set off on its second circuit.

The well-fancied Le Breuil led for some way, but a bad mistake four out did not help his cause as Vieux Lion Rouge made his way into contention and victory.

O’Farrell said: “That was super. He’s an old star who knows his way around here and is brilliant over those fences.

“There was plenty of pace today, so we took our time and let him get into a rhythm and he saw it out very well.

Vieux Lion Rouge comes home victorious under Conor O'Farrell
Vieux Lion Rouge comes home victorious under Conor O’Farrell (Tim Goode/PA)

“There was a lot going on, but the course is wide enough and you can give yourself light everywhere if you want to.

“He has a fair record over these fences and to win this race for a second time, at his age, is fantastic.

“I’m delighted for David and for Caroline (Tisdall, part-owner) as well. I spoke to her beforehand and all she said was ‘make sure you both come back safely’.”

Vieux Lion Rouge was given a quote of 50-1 for the Randox Health Grand National with Betfair, although he has not managed to complete in the National itself to date.

Speaking from home, Pipe said: “What a horse over those fences. Jumping is the name of the game and it’s a great effort by the team.

“He’s dropped a few pounds in the handicap, the rain came and I thought he was in good form. I said to Conor this morning and said ‘he’ll take you round there, just take your time and creep into it’.

“Conor rode him to win a veterans’ chase last year and used to work here (Pond House). He’s obviously based up north now, but when Tom (Scudamore) chose Ramses De Teillee (finished seventh), Conor was the obvious choice.

“I believe the horse has now jumped 223 fences around the National course at Aintree – he seems to light up for the occasion and his record is second to none. He’s like Fred Astaire around there!

“He doesn’t seem to stay the Grand National trip and I didn’t think he’d even get into the race before today, but now he might.

“He’s in the Welsh Grand National and is also qualified for the veterans’ final at Sandown as well, so possibly one of those two races might be his next target.”

Tom Lacey was proud of Kimberlite Candy’s effort and he could be back in April for the National.

Lacey said: “He’s run an absolute cracker, but nobody wants to be second.

“I saw most of the race on the big screen and it looked like he put in an almost perfect round of jumping, excluding the first.

Runners and riders in the Becher Chase
Runners and riders in the Becher Chase (Tim Goode/PA)

“He’s run a cracker, but obviously we’re hugely disappointed to bump into a very impressive winner.

“He’s done nothing wrong and seems to relish these fences. I can’t see why he won’t be back here in April if we get a wet spring, but we’ll get over today first and speak to Frank Berry (racing manager to owner JP McManus) and see what the plan is – maybe the Classic Chase at Warwick will be an option again.”

Of Le Breuil, Ben Pauling said: “Kielan (Woods) doesn’t know how he stood up at the ditch – it was a mad mistake and it knocked the stuffing out of him.

“He paid the price for that one mistake, but apart from that he’s run a blinder and he’s quite clearly able to jump these fences.

“The aim would be to come back here in April, but at the moment his mark would be nowhere near getting in and we’ve got a few pounds to find.”

Vieux Lion Rouge out to extend unique Aintree record

David Pipe’s Vieux Lion Rouge returns to Aintree for the William Hill Becher Chase – and what will be his ninth run over the famous Grand National fences.

Winner of the Becher Chase in 2016, the 11-year-old has completed the course every time he has turned up on Merseyside – which includes four attempts in the big race itself.

He finished sixth behind One For Arthur in 2017 and has also been second in the 2018 Becher to Walk In The Mill, who will bid for a hat-trick on Saturday.

“Vieux Lion Rouge has jumped more Grand National fences than any other horse – 202,” said Pipe.

“He’s run in four Grand Nationals, four Bechers and he lights up to the occasion – and he actually jumps those fences better than the normal park fences.

“While he’s not getting any younger, he’s in great form at home, and for both of mine the more rain the better before Saturday.”

Pipe is also set to run the fancied Ramses De Teillee, who won at Cheltenham first time out this season.

“We haven’t worked out who rides him (Vieux Lion Rouge) yet, but whoever does will no doubt be in for a wonderful ride,” Pipe added, in a call hosted by Great British Racing.

“Tom (Scudamore) will ride Ramses De Teillee after his great run at Cheltenham the other day.

“Obviously there won’t be the same amount of people as normal, but Vieux Lion Rouge knows the occasion. He knows the paddock – and once he gets shown the first fence, he knows what it is all about.

“I don’t know why he is better over these fences, but his track record tells you that he is.

Ramses De Teillee (left) came out on top in a battle with Yala Enki at Cheltenham
Ramses De Teillee (left) came out on top in a battle with Yala Enki at Cheltenham (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“We’ve had both horses since they were four. Ramses is only eight, (and) I keep thinking he’s older than what he is – he loves soft ground, he battled well at Cheltenham and came out of that race extremely well.

“Obviously he ran in the Grand National last year – and while it said he didn’t complete what happened was at the Canal Turn second time round one of his reins broke and he did actually finish but just on one rein.

“We watched the video of the 2019 National with his owners, John White and Anne Underhill, to decide whether to come here or the Welsh National.

“He made mistakes at the third and fourth – but apart from that he jumped everything else very well, and we think it warrants having another go.

“Ramses would have to be the stronger fancy of the two – he’s going there in good form, which is why he’s running on Saturday, to strike while the iron is hot rather than wait another month (for the Welsh National), because you never know what is around the corner.”

Pipe has his own experience in the saddle over the famous fences as an amateur – having ridden Aherlow Glen for his father Martin in the 1993 Fox Hunters’.

“I stupidly rode over the fences in the Fox Hunters’ and finished nearly last,” he said.

“I had a great thrill. The tapes went up, and they went so quick I got left behind.

“There was a poor lady at the side of the rail taking pictures, which you were allowed to in those days. My dad asked her to take a picture of us – she was a complete stranger but she very kindly sent a picture in the post.”