Chase contests simply don’t get any better – certainly when judged on sheer excitement and spectacle – than those run over the big Grand National fences at Aintree.
As such we are in for a real treat at the beginning of December as the likes of the The Chair, Valentines and Foinavon make their first appearance of the season in the Becher Chase, a race which never fails to capture the imagination.
Launched in 1992, this race is named in honour of Captain Martin Becher who, as a jockey, won the 1836 Grand Liverpool Chase, the race which would become the Grand National in 1839. Becher wasn’t so lucky in that first National, as we explain later, lending his name to Becher’s Brook, the 6th and 22nd second fence in the Grand National.
Next Race: Saturday, 5th December 2020
The next race is scheduled to run on 5th December 2020. The race info, trends and tips shown below will be updated for the next renewal once the final declarations have been made.
Last Run: 7th December 2019
- Winner: Walk In The Mill
- SP: 8/1
- Trainer: Robert Walford
- Jockey: James Best
The Becher Chase is one of the most popular handicap chases of the year but it is always viewed with the future in mind, specifically the Grand National. This 3m2f handicap is run on the same course, and therefore the same familiar fences, as the Grand National. Many of those in the field will be returning to Aintree in April for the big one but for now there is a very healthy £150,000 prize fund on offer in this prestigious chase.
|Going||Distance||Grade||Prize Money||Runners||EW Terms|
|Soft||3m2f||Grade 3||£150,000||18 Runners||1/4 1-4|
Becher Chase Betting Tips
Note: The following tips are from 2019. Tips for the next renewal will be added once the final declarations have been made.
The Becher Chase is always a very exciting contest but one that regularly gives punters something of a headache. Just three favourites have got the job done for their backers in the last 10 years. The same period has produced six winners with a double figure starting price so you can see that backing the right horse is rarely an easy proposition for punters.
That said, the Becher Chase has been run at Aintree since 1992 so there is plenty of information out there in the form of statistics and trends to help narrow the field down. The first thing to notice is that a certain amount of experience is vital. 2016 winner, Vieux Lion Rouge, is one of just three seven year old winners of the Becher and there has never been a six year old winner.
The Becher Chase is also a very demanding race. At a hefty distance of 3m2f, it’s a race for stayers whilst the challenge of the Grand National fences demands consistently excellent jumping. For that reason, it’s tough to win the Becher cold. Most recent winners had a warm up run under their belts in the seven weeks leading up to their trip to Aintree. At the same token, it is important for trainers not to overdo the preparations as horses must arrive for the Becher fresh and ready to give their best.
ONE FOR ARTHUR - 9/1
Some of the other key trends for the Becher Chase include the importance of having a chase win over three miles or longer and previous experience of the Grand National course. Those trends are certainly true of One For Arthur. The 10 year old won the Grand National in 2017 and finished a credible seventh place in the biggest jumps handicap of the lot last year.
Hopes are high that One For Arthur will be able to play a major part in the Grand National once again this year. The first job, however, is getting him there. Given that he’s soon to turn 11, some racing fans believe that One For Arthur’s best is firmly behind him. That is not the way that anybody at Lucinda Russell’s yard see it though.
One For Arthur was unable to race for the entire season following his Grand National triumph. He is, therefore, lightly raced for his age and should have plenty left to give. Opinion was spilt about his first appearance of the season at Kelso where he finished fourth of seventh in a 3m2f handicap. He did fade in the closing stages but generally looked good in running and connections were pleased with the way he ran. His previous success means that One For Arthur will have to carry 11st 2lb in the Becher Chase but he’s a classy and battle hardened enough performer to stick gamely to his task and he may well get back to his best with another big win at Aintree.
WALK IN THE MILL – 9/1
Walk In The Mill knows exactly what it takes to win the Becher Chase. Indeed, he arrives at Aintree as the race’s defending champion and he is getting a fair amount of support to put in another strong performance. Robert Walford’s nine year old is only four pounds higher than he was when winning the Becher 12 months ago which looks more than a little generous.
Walk In The Mill’s rating came down more after his first race of this season where he was pulled up on good to soft ground at Wincanton. That was a real disappointment but he does tend to need a warm up race before finding his best and that may well be the case once again this weekend. He is certainly a better performer over the Grand National fences than most of his opponents (he finished fourth in the Grand National in April) and looks like a fair price at 9/1.
BALLYOPTIC - 14/1
Ballyoptic is another horse in the field for the Becher Chase with previous experience of the Grand National course. Unfortunately for the nine year old, he failed to complete either of his two runs. He fell in this race 12 months ago when he was fairly well backed at 15/2 and then fell again when more of an outsider in the Grand National.
Nigel Twiston-Davies and his team believe there is a high level chaser in there and Ballyoptic has been well schooled at home to make sure that he is ready to improve his record at Aintree. He has certainly been performing well this season with two wins to his name already even if he was very well beaten in the Grade 1 Betfair Chase. Some will understandably concerned that Ballyoptic has been a little too busy to give his best in the Becher but connections are happy with him and he may well be able to hold on for at least a place at a fairly generous price of 14/1.
Becher Chase Winners
|2019||Walk In The Mill||8/1||Robert Walford||James Best|
|2018||Walk In The Mill||10/1||Robert Walford||James Best|
|2017||Blaklion||7/4||Nigel Twiston-Davies||Gavin Sheehan|
|2016||Vieux Lion Rouge||8/1||David Pipe||Tom Scudamore|
|2015||Highland Lodge||20/1||James Moffatt||Henry Brooke|
|2014||Oscar Time||25/1||Robert Waley-Cohen||Sam Waley-Cohen|
|2013||Chance du Roy||14/1||Philip Hobbs||Tom O’Brien|
|2012||Hello Bud||14/1||Nigel Twiston-Davies||Sam Twiston-Davies|
|2011||West End Rocker||10/1||Alan King||Wayne Hutchinson|
|2010||Hello Bud||15/2||Nigel Twiston-Davies||Sam Twiston-Davies|
About the Becher Chase
Former soldier and jockey Martin Becher not only has an Aintree fence named in his honour but a Grade 3 handicap chase too. During his riding career, Becher won the Grand Liverpool Steeplechase in 1836, the contest a precursor to the Grand National which began three years later.
This is not the reason why Becher is more than a footnote in Aintree history though. His fame stems from the fact that he fell at the first brook during the inaugural Grand National running before remounting his horse, soaking wet, only to fall again at the second brook. Not quite the glorious tale that often results in having a race named in one’s honour!
Becher’s Brook is the sixth fence on Aintree’s Grand National course and is one of 21 obstacles any contenders of this race must face before reaching the finishing line. The Becher Chase is not part of the Grand National meeting though and is run in late November or early December. Chasers aged six and older are put to the test over a distance just short of three mile and two furlongs. It’s a tough handicap to win but for the horse that can pull it off, they’ll pocket their connections the biggest slice of an attractive £120,000 purse (correct as of 2020).
Grand National Preparation
Run over the same fences as the Grand National, the Becher Chase stands as a useful early-trial race for Aintree’s big event at the opposite end of the NH season. The distance of the two races aren’t comparable but often those that shine in this preparatory event do have the legs to go further, and of course, there are few races that extend to the massive distance of the National.
That said, there hasn’t been a Becher Chase champion, since its 1992 inception, who has gone on to win both races in the same season. Others have done well though, regularly finishing the race and sometimes landing a place, as you can see from the chart below that shows the Becher winners that also took part in the following April’s showpiece.
Although no Becher champion has followed it up with Grand National success five months later, three horses have won both races in their careers and are worthy of a mention. Earth Summit won Britain’s most loved handicap the season before claiming glory in this race. There’s also 2001 Becher Chase champion Amberleigh House, who claimed Grand National success three and a half years further down the line. Silver Birch was the last dual Becher Chase and Grand National winner, taking the Becher in 2004 and the National in 2007. Having performed so well on his National debut, perhaps Walk In The Mill might be the next to repeat the feat and is certainly worth keeping an eye on.
Dual Becher Chase & Grand National Winners: 1992 – 2019
|Horse||Trainer(s)||Becher Chase Win||Grand National Win|
|Silver Birch||Paul Nicholls / Gordon Elliot||2004||2007|
|Amberleigh House||Ginger McCain||2001||2004|
|Earth Summit||Nigel Twiston-Davies||1998||1998|
A Test Too Challenging for Many
There are two main questions you’ve got to ask yourself before putting your bets on for this race. Does your chosen horse have the legs to last the journey and do they have the necessary jumping ability to deal with the tough fences? If answering no to either, you’ll probably want to reconsider your options as a large proportion of horses don’t end up finishing this gruelling race.
As the data above shows, a little under half of all horses that compete either fall, unseat their riders or are pulled up. The Becher Chase may be the “little brother” of the National but it is still a hugely challenging race.
Old Bud Bows Out in Fine Fashion
Hello Bud never did quite reach the top tier of chasers but a perfectly handy career saw him amass £275k in prize money. His biggest triumph came in the 2009 edition of the Scottish Grand National but his name is also etched twice into the winners’ list of this race.
First winning as a 12-year-old, Nigel Twiston-Davies’ horse returned two years later having failed to win a single race in the meantime. Even at the ripe old age of 14 though, the veteran stayer still had one big effort in him as he won the 2012 Becher Chase by a neck in what was his last ever start.
By doing so, Hello Bud became the oldest ever champion this race has seen and just the second to win it more than once.