This year’s £100,000 Listed Betfred Becher Handicap Chase (2.10pm) looks set to be another hugely informative renewal after a top-quality field of 15 was declared to run in the three and a quarter-mile contest run over the Grand National fences at Aintree on Saturday, December 3.
The highlight of Betfred Becher Chase Grand National Trials Day has proven 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.
Betfred make Another Palm their 6/1 favourite for this year’s contest and the six-year-old, runner-up in the Cork Grand National on November 6, has been earmarked as a potential John Smith’s Grand National contender by his trainer Noel Meade.
Kim Bailey sent out Mr Frisk to a famous victory in the 1990 John Smith’s Grand National and the Gloucestershire trainer could have another potential Aintree horse in the shape of Max Bygraves, who is a 16/1 chance for Saturday’s race with Betfred.
The eight-year-old warmed up for the Betfred Becher Handicap Chase with a ready victory in an extended two and a half-mile handicap chase at Huntingdon on October 2 and will be ridden at Aintree by Jason Maguire, who partnered Ballabriggs to win this year’s John Smith’s Grand National.
Bailey commented: “Max Bygraves should like the course. He has been a good jumper in the past and, although it well be his first try at three and a quarter miles, I think that he will get the trip.
“My one concern is the ground. He has run well on good to soft but he is a good ground horse and I would not want to see much too much rain.
“He was pulled up twice in the spring but that was because it rained on fast ground at the last minute and made it very slippery - he slipped on the bend at both Newbury and Aintree. His jumping has been so far, so good and he has always been pretty good.
“The John Smith’s Grand National is a long way off and, if he doesn’t run well on Saturday, then he wouldn’t be qualified, but he heads there in good form.”
Champion trainer Paul Nicholls is represented by the fifth from this year’s John Smith’s Grand National, Niche Market (8/1), while Hello Bud (8/1) is bidding to follow up his victory last year for the father and son combination of trainer Nigel and jockey Sam Twiston-Davies.
Dessie Hughes has enjoyed a pair of Betfred Becher Handicap Chase wins with Black Apalachi (2008) and Vic Venturi (2009) and the County Kildare handler is sending over Rare Bob (10/1), who recorded a Grade One success over fences at the 2009 Punchestown Festival.
Nicto De Beauchene (7/1) lines up for trainer Victor Dartnall, while other notable runners include the Nick Williams-trained Shalimar Fromentro (10/1), Swing Bill (11/1), representing David Pipe, and Abbeybraney (11/1), who makes his debut for Nicky Richards.
Always Waining (12/1) boasts a superb record over the National fences for Peter Bowen having taken the two latest renewals of the John Smith’s Topham Chase, while the Alan King-trained West End Rocker (12/1) was travelling well prior to being brought down at Becher’s Brook on the first circuit of the John Smith’s Grand National in April.
Saturday’s card also features the £50,000 Betfred Grand Sefton Handicap Chase (3.20pm), run over an extended two miles and five furlongs of the Grand National Course, and Kim Bailey will also be represented by Buffalo Bob, who fell at the eighth fence in the John Smith’s Topham Chase in April.
Bailey added: “Buffalo Bob definitely goes for the Grand Sefton and Jason Maguire will be on board. He ran in the Topham Chase last season, when he didn’t really fall - he went down on his knees and Sean Quinlan fell off him.
“He wants soft ground, so it’s a bit difficult for both him and Max Bygraves - ideally we want it to rain between the two races!”
Other interesting contenders for the Betfred Grand Sefton Handicap Chase include Frankie Figg, winner of the race in 2010 who is now under the care of champion trainer Paul Nicholls, and Nikola, trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies and a winner over the Mildmay Course in October.
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) and an entry of 10 for the three mile, one furlong, contest includes the Tom George-trained Nacarat, who is set to return to Aintree having captured the Grade One Betfred Bowl at the John Smith’s Grand National Meeting in April.
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 Handicap Chase - Betfred bet:
6/1 Another Palm, 7/1 Nicto De Beauchene, 8/1 Hello Bud, Niche Market, 10/1 Rare Bob, Shalimar Fromentro, 11/1 Swing Bill, Abbeybraney, 12/1 West End Rocker, Always Waining, 16/1 Mad Max, Max Bygraves, Merchent Paddy, 20/1 Ballyvesey, 25/1 Pak Jack
Each way 1/4 odds, 123
The going at Aintree is currently:
MILDMAY COURSE - Good to Soft
HURDLE COURSE - Good to Soft, Soft in places
NATIONAL COURSE - Good to Soft, Soft in places
Andrew Tulloch, Clerk of the Course and Director of Racing at Aintree, commented: “We had one millimetre of rain overnight and today and tomorrow are predicted to be largely dry.
“Rain is forecast to arrive Friday night into Saturday, which is likely to ease the going further.
“I am very happy with the declarations for the Betfred Becher Chase. It looks sure to be a competitive contest with several proven performers over the National fences set to line up once again.”
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