The valuable Becher Chase at Aintree, run over the fearsome Grand National fences, is a must for punters who like an open-looking handicap with joint favourites at 10/1 (1.35pm Saturday live on Channel 4).
The 11-year-old Alvarado trained by Fergal O’Brien for the Ruckers is one of them. This likeable chestnut is proven over these obstacles with two Grand National fourth place finishes to his name under Paul Moloney. He did not line up for Aintree’s highlight this year but finished second in the Scottish National, three lengths behind Paul Nicholls’ Vicente, off a mark of 135.
Alvarado’s seasonal debut in the BetVictor Handicap Chase at Cheltenham in early November was encouraging, he finished sixth beaten about eight lengths by Viconte De Noyer. Alvarado starts off a mark of 135 here and ought to post a clear round but over this distance of three miles two furlongs he could well be vulnerable to younger, faster legs.
Ucello Conti, the 10/1 joint favourite in the Becher Chase betting finished sixth, beaten nearly 40 lengths by Rule The World in the National after surviving some serious blunders under Daryl Jacob who rides him again here. Since then this eight-year-old French-bred son of Martaline has had one run in a Grade 2 hurdle race at Navan in mid November. He started at 50/1 and looked to need the run, weakening to finish last, beaten nearly 30 lengths.
This horse would have been an expensive purchase from France for his deep-pocketed owners, Simon Munir and Isaac Souede. His trainer Gordon Elliott is a master at priming horses for valuable handicaps and although his horses always merit respect, this one does not seem to offer much value at his current price especially on good to soft ground.
Another trainer worth watching is Neil Mulholland (pictured). His horses have been running well and have sometimes sprung surprises first time out. Last weekend he saddled the 33/1 shot Carole’s Destrier in the Hennessy who finished a close second to Native River. The Young Master (12/1) has attracted more support. The Waley-Cohen family must have spent plenty buying into this promising seven-year-old 12 months ago, the talented amateur Sam Waley-Cohen has ridden him ever since.
After a sticky start when Sam was unseated at the first fence in the 2015 Hennessy The Young Master posted some decent efforts under his new jockey. He was last seen winning the Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown in April off a mark of 148, taking the lead in the final strides to beat Paul Nicholls’ Just A Par a short head. That was over three miles five furlongs on good ground.
This will be The Young Master’s first attempt at the National course but he has reportedly been schooling well at home. Mulholland is confident that he is ‘very well ahead’ on the fitness front and his jockey’s record round this course is better than any of the professionals. Sam may not be quite as stylish as the pros but he has a superb racing brain and a useful 3lb claim. The partnership has to have strong each-way claims.
Another horse having his first tilt over these fences is the striking grey, Viconte Du Noyer (12/1) who was recently moved to Colin Tizzard’s yard along with most of Ann and Alan Potts’ horses previously trained by Henry de Bromhead. This seven-year-old is another French-bred son of Martaline. He was the surprise winner of the Betvictor Chase, jumping with style and staying every yard of the three and a half miles. It was his first run for his new trainer who admitted that they were on a discovery mission regarding Viconte Du Noyer’s stamina. It was a stunning effort for a horse that had never raced over further than two and a half miles.
At Prestbury Park Viconte Du Noyer started off a mark of 148 and benefited from a great ride by Harry Cobden as well as his 3lb claim. Aidan Coleman will partner him off his new mark of 154 which will feel like a hike of 9lb rather than 6lb. The yard is in outstanding form and it is very possible that Viconte Du Noyer could overcome the handicapper’s attempt to stop him.
Sizing Coal (16/1) will carry the second colours of the Potts who paid a hefty 340,000 Euros for him as an unraced three-year-old. Trained by Jim Dreaper in Ireland, this well made son of Presenting ought to enjoy better ground than he usually encounters closer to home. Sizing Coal started as the favourite in the Midlands Grand National in March but, like the vast majority of the field, pulled up in the testing conditions. This eight-year-old posted a decent effort in a three mile six furlong handicap chase at Punchestown a month later, leading on the run to the last fence but finishing third on the good to yielding ground.
Dreaper knows a thing or two about what is required at Aintree, he finished second in the Grand National as a jockey on Black Secret 45 years ago and trained the same horse to finish third the following year. Sizing Coal was last seen in late September starting as the 9/10 favourite and winning like one in a very weak three mile chase in deep mud at Sligo. His mark has risen a manageable 2lb for that effort. Sizing Coal has coped with large fields, finishing third in the Irish National in April last year, and ought to be well-suited by this distance. Mark Enright must be looking forward to riding him for the first time as he has never fallen. Sizing Coal should not be discounted as a second string.
David Pipe’s Vieux Lion Rouge is fancied to go well at 11/1. He has not been seen since he finished seventh, getting tired and beaten 50 lengths in the Grand National. This seven-year-old runs well fresh, winning on his debut last season but he holds limited appeal at this price as he seems best suited by soft ground. There is also a bit of a question mark over horses having their first run since the National as quite a few of them disappoint.
The Last Samuri (14/1) has had a run since his gallant second to Rule The World in April, he was beaten 30 lengths by Valseur Lido in the JNWine Champion Chase at Down Royal a month ago. He is entitled to come on for that run but is now rated 10lb higher than when starting in the National. The Last Samuri has the heart of a lion but is not the biggest and may find it difficult to shine shouldering topweight.
Alan King’s Ziga Boy (20/1) is an interesting contender at a decent price. This seven-year-old grey is a natural jumper who has looked outstanding over ordinary obstacles, judging his fences beautifully. He won two three mile chases at Doncaster last season, suited by decent ground and a flat track. Ziga Boy looked to need his first run at Bangor-on-Dee in early November but he could put in a good performance under Tom Bellamy.
One For Arthur (16/1) is another sound jumper who could be at an advantage over this test. He proved his aptitude for this distance when winning a handicap chase at Kelso on his debut in late October in style. He has been kept at home by Lucinda Russell ever since with this race in mind but unfortunately has a 10lb rise to overcome after his stunning start to the season.
Our Preview’s Becher Chase Betting Tips’ Verdict
- As the betting suggests, this is an extremely open race with half of the field in with a shout. Viconte Du Noyer looks interesting for the all-conquering Tizzard yard as does Sizing Coal for the same owners but our Becher Chase Preview’s betting tip has to be THE YOUNG MASTER. Mulholland’s horses are flying and Sam Waley-Cohen is the best amateur to tackle this track, back him each-way at a best price of 12/1 with Coral Bookmaker, who are paying 1/5 the odds for the first SIX places.
Fiona Derek is our Reality TV and horse racing expert. The only time you won’t find her riding or mucking out a racehorse is when she is watching Reality TV or racing on the box.