Becher Chase Betting Tips, Stats & History

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 during this weekend 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.

Race Info

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

Aintree, 13:30, Saturday 7th December 2019

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.

Recent Winners

YearWinnerSPTrainerJockey
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

Aintree Racecourse Grandstands
Rept0n1x, Wikimedia Commons (Image Cropped)

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 £150,000 purse (correct as of 2019).

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’s been just one Becher Chase champion, since its 1992 inception, who has gone on to win both races in the same season, Silver Birch. Others have done well though, regularly finishing the race and sometimes landing a place, as you can see from the table below that lists recent winners that also took part in the April showpiece.

Becher Chase Winners in the Grand National: 2010 - 2018

Year Becher Chase Winner Grand National Finish Odds
2018 Walk In The Mill 4th (2019) 25/1
2017 Blaklion 4th (2018) 8/1
2016 Vieux Lion Rouge 6th (2017) 12/1
2014 Oscar Time 15th (2015) 20/1
2013 Chance du Roy 6th (2014) 33/1
2011 West End Rocker Fell (2012) 16/1
2010 Hello Bud 5th (2011) 20/1

Although the aforementioned Silver Birch is the only Becher champion who followed it up with Grand National success five months later, two other horses 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. Having performed so well on his National debut, perhaps double Becher Chase winner Walk In The Mill might be the next to repeat the feat and is certainly worth keeping an eye on.

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 below 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.

Chart Showing the Finish of Becher Chase Runners Between 2010 and 2019

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 is one of only three horses to win the Becher more than once.

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