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 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:
Walk In The Mill
Ramses De Teilee
Vieux Lion Rouge
The runners without a run over these fences are:
Coo Star Sivola
Give Me A Copper
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 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.
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.
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.