Aintree plays host to Betfred Becher Chase Grand National Trials Day this Saturday, December 3 and two cracking contests are in prospect over the Grand National fences with 26 entries for the £100,000 Listed Betfred Becher Handicap Chase (2.10pm) and 23 entries for the £50,000 Betfred Grand Sefton Handicap Chase (3.20pm).
Run over three and a quarter miles, the Betfred Becher Chase has proved to be an excellent trial for the John Smith’s Grand National with winners Amberleigh House and Silver Birch both going on to glory in the world’s greatest chase.
The entries this year include several performers who are already proven over the Grand National fences including Hello Bud, successful in the 2010 Becher Chase, and Always Waining, who has landed the past two renewals of the John Smith’s Topham Chase.
Trainer Nicky Richards won the Betfred Becher Chase in 1999 with Feels Like Gold and has another contender on his hands this year in the shape of stable newcomer Abbeybraney. The 10-year-old, a 16/1 chance with Betfred, previously showed high-class form in Ireland, where he was twice placed in Grade One company, but has not seen a racecourse since being pulled up in the four-mile National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March, 2010.
Richards revealed today: “All being well, Abbeybraney will head to Aintree for the Betfred Becher Chase. I have had him for five or six weeks and I am very happy with him.
“He’s had little issues with his legs in the past but I have done as much as I can with him and he is ready to go. He is very lightly-raced because of those problems but his form earlier in his career was very good and I would hope that he still retains a good level of form as a 10-year-old.
“I hope that he can run a good race and we will get Saturday out of the way before deciding where to aim him for the rest of the season.”
There are five possible challengers from Ireland. Champion Irish Jump trainer Willie Mullins has entered recent Cheltenham cross country winner Uncle Junior, while Dessie Hughes, who has landed two of the past three renewals of the Becher Chase with Black Apalachi (2008) and Vic Venturi (2009), could be represented by Rare Bob, a Grade One winner at Punchestown in 2009.
Notre Pere, a dual Grade One scorer who finished fifth in last year’s race, was recently reported to be on course for the race by trainer Barry Potts, while the other two possible starters from Ireland are Merchent Paddy and Another Palm, who is trained by Noel Meade and was a close second on his latest start in the Cork Grand National on November 6.
Other interesting contenders include Mad Max, winner of the Grade Two Manifesto Novices’ Chase at Aintree in 2010 and the Nicky Henderson-trained Shakalakaboomboom whose most recent outing came when taking a competitive handicap chase at Punchestown in May. Any Currency, trained by Martin Keighley, could return to action in the Betfred Becher Chase having been last seen out when chasing home Midnight Chase in a valuable handicap chase at Cheltenham almost a year ago.
Always Waining also features among the 23 entries for the Betfred Grand Sefton Handicap Chase, along with Frankie Figg, the winner of the race in 2010 who is now under the care of champion trainer Paul Nicholls. Peter Bowen, the trainer of Always Waining, could also be represented by Sun Tzu and No Panic.
Tom George has made an entry for Nacarat, who enjoyed his finest hour when taking the Grade One Betfred Bowl at Aintree in April.
Possible contenders for the Betfred Grand Sefton Handicap Chase, run over two miles, five and a half furlongs, also include Nikola, trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies and a winner over the Mildmay Course in October, while there is one entry from Ireland, the Arthur Moore-trained Linnel.
A seven-race card on Betfred Becher Chase Grand National Trials Day also includes the £35,000 Listed Betfred Goals Galore Bonus Chase (2.45pm, race re-opened).
The action gets underway with at 12 noon with the Jaguar Northern Dealers Maiden Hurdle (31 entries) and continues with the Betfred Goals Galore Handicap Hurdle (12.35pm, 22 entries), the Betfred 1350 Shops Nationwide Novices’ Handicap Hurdle (1.05pm, 28 entries) and the Betfred Free Machine Play Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race (1.35pm, 13 entries).
Betfred Becher Chase – sponsors bet: 10/1 Another Palm, Master Overseer, Meanus Dandy, Niche Market, 11/1 Shakalakaboomboom, Swing Bill, 12/1 Always Waining, Any Currency, Hello Bud, Uncle Junior, 14/1 Nicto de Beauchene, Rare Bob, Sona Sasta, West End Rocker, 16/1 Abbeybraney, Notre Pere, Shalimar Fromento, 20/1 Checkerboard, Fine Parchment, Mad Max, Max Bygraves, Merchant Paddy, 25/1 Ballyvesey, Pak Jack, Pilgrims Lane, 33/1 Sun Tzu
The going at Aintree is currently:
Mildmay Course - Good to Soft, good in places
National Course - Good to Soft
Andrew Tulloch, Aintree’s Clerk of the Course and Director of Racing, reported today: “We are forecast to receive some rain tomorrow and the rest of the week should see generally unsettled conditions with slightly cooler temperatures than of late.
“The course is looking in great shape and I am very pleased with the work that was carried out on the first fence (fence number 8 in the Betfred Becher Handicap Chase and fence 5 in the Betfred Grand Sefton Handicap Chase) and Becher’s Brook in August. The toe boards have been raised on all fences on the Grand National course.”
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