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: TBD
The next renewal of this race has not been scheduled yet. We will update this once the schedule has been released for next season. The race info, trends and tips shown below will be updated for the next renewal once the final declarations have been made.
Last Run: 5th December 2020
- Winner: Vieux Lion Rouge
- SP: 12/1
- Trainer: David Pipe
- Jockey: Conor O'Farrell
Three miles and two furlongs is the trip for this Grade 3 chase contest which takes place over Aintree’s famous Grand National fences and looks set to take place on soft ground this year. An early season highlight at the Merseyside venue, the race offers a very tidy £120,000 in total prize money and as if that wasn’t enough, there will even be fans inside the famous old course!
|Going||Distance||Grade||Prize Money||Runners||EW Terms|
|Soft||3m2f||Grade 3||£120,000||15 Runners||1/4 1-3|
Becher Chase Betting Tips
Note: The following tips are from 2020. Tips for the next renewal will be added once the final declarations have been made.
Successful most recently in 2017 with the admirable Blaklion, it is Naunton-based handler Nigel Twiston-Davies who leads the way in the all-time trainers’ table for this race, with his total of six wins putting him three clear of his nearest rival Paul Nicholls. Twiston-Davies will be represented by Callet Mad this year, whilst Nicholls will be hoping to close the gap with either Yala Enki or Give Me A Copper.
There has been a strong recent trend against runners towards the head of the weights in this event. In the past 10 years, only the aforementioned Blaklion has managed to carry more than 10st13lb to victory. The top seven in this year’s edition are all saddled with over 11st so trends fans will have an easy time narrowing things down in that regard.
This has been an excellent race for supporters of the market leader in the past decade. A 30% strike-rate is a rock-solid return for a competitive event such as this, and has been enough to hand favourite backers a profit to £1 level stakes of £10.25. That said, we have seen winners at double-digit odds six times in that period, including the 13 year old Oscar Time at 25/1 in 2014.
|Walk In The Mill||6/1||11st 2lbs||Robert Walford||James Best|
|Le Breuil||5/1||10st 8lbs||Ben Pauling||Kielan Woods|
|Give Me A Copper||12/1||10st 13lbs||Paul Nicholls||Sam Twiston-Davies|
Walk In The Mill – 6/1
Where else to start than with the horse who is bidding for a place in the history books by becoming the first ever three-time winner of this race? The Robert Walford-trained, Walk In The Mill is a decent price here at 6/1 and is sure to have plenty of support on the day. 4½l too good for the field when running off a mark of 137 in 2018, he once again wasn’t for catching heading up the straight 12 months ago to score by 2½l from a mark of 141.
He’s up to 149 ahead of this year’s renewal which makes life considerably tougher, but is actually 8lbs better off with last season’s runner up Kimberlite Candy. Given that it is possible to make a decent case for him from a handicapping perspective, even considering that lofty rating.
The main selling point with this one though is of course that formidable record over these unique obstacles. In addition to his two wins in this race, his only other effort over the big fences came in the 2019 Grand National, when once again running a screamer to finish fourth to Tiger Roll off a mark of 144. Some may be put off by the fact that he is approaching his 11th birthday, but 11 of the 28 editions to date have been landed by a runner aged 10 or older, so that needn’t be a negative. With the benefit of a recent comeback run at Ascot under his belt, he looks solid to run his usual big race around here.
Le Breuil – 5/1
At 3m2f, this may not represent quite the same test as the most famous race to be held over these fences, but that’s still a long way to travel and jump, particularly when the going is on the easy side, as it seems likely to be. As such, having a healthy dose of stamina on your side counts for plenty, and there are few who score so highly in that regard as the Ben Pauling-trained, Le Breuil.
Now eight years old, this one’s most recent success came in the biggest war of attrition in recent memory, when showing the heart of a lion to get back up and deny Discorama in the 2019 National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. So demanding was that race that the organisers immediately opted to reduce the distance ahead of future renewals.
Unsurprisingly that herculean effort did seem to leave a mark on the horse, and he wasn’t able to get back to those levels in four starts last term. The pick of those efforts did come when a 20l seventh in this race though when jumping notably well throughout. Catching the eye when staying on again into fourth on his recent comeback this term, he is 4lb lower than for his Cheltenham success, and 9lb lower than when seventh in this in 2019, and is understandably proving popular in the market.
Give Me A Copper – 12/1
Yala Enki boasts the higher-class form of the two Paul Nicholls runners, but is duly saddled with top weight of 11st12lb, which recent stats suggest could be a significant negative. As such, it may be that Give Me A Copper represents Nicholls’ best chance of landing a fourth success in the race.
Like Walk In The Mill and Yala Enki this one is also 10 years old, but whereas that pair have had 25 and 29 previous chase starts respectively, Give Me A Copper will be making only his eighth appearance over fences here. As such it seems reasonable to assume that, despite those double-digit years, he may well have room to progress from a mark of 146.
On the downside, that lack of runs for one his age is in large part down to various injury issues, and he can be a very up and down performer. On the best of his efforts though he would look to be right in the mix here. Raced just twice last season, the pick of those outings came first time out when landing the Badger Beers Silver Trophy at Wincanton off a mark of 142.
A mark that is four pounds higher poses a question for what was a narrow success, but he has had a wind operation in the interim which may spark improvement. In addition, the fact that his astute handler has suggested he could be a Grand National horse suggests that he is at least optimistic about his prospects of handling these fences and this sort of test of stamina.
Becher Chase Winners
|2020||Vieux Lion Rouge||12/1||David Pipe||Conor O'Farrell|
|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|
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 Elliott||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.