Betfred Becher Chase History
|Grade 3 Handicap, Aintree
3m 2f, Class 1
The inaugural running in 1992 of the Betfred Becher Handicap Chase over the Grand National fences went to the Sue Smith-trained Kildimo, who comfortably saw off 1990 Scottish Grand National winner Four Trix for a seven-length success. The Yorkshire-based handler gained a second success a decade later when Ardent Scout prevailed under an excellent ride from Dominic Elsworth to beat 2004 John Smith’s Grand National hero Amberleigh House by 24 lengths.
Amberleigh House won this prestigious handicap chase over three and a quarter miles in 2001 when driven out by Warren Marston to prevail by two lengths from Smarty, who had filled the same position in the previous season’s Grand National. Three years later, Amberleigh House went on to give Red Rum’s trainer Ginger McCain a memorable fourth success in the Grand National when coming from a near impossible position under Graham Lee to score by three lengths from Clan Royal.
Clan Royal had beaten Amberleigh House by a head in the 2003 renewal of the Betfred Becher Handicap Chase, which was his second victory over the unique fences after landing the 2003 Topham Chase. Jonjo O’Neill’s charge also went on to finish third in the 2006 running of the John Smith’s Grand National.
Earth Summit, with top-weight of 12 stone, captured the Betfred Becher Handicap Chase seven months after he had won the world’s most famous chase in 1998, defeating the previous year’s Betfred Becher Handicap Chase winner Samlee by 16 lengths. In addition to saddling Earth Summit, trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies has won the Becher Chase on three other occasions, courtesy of Indian Tonic in 1993, Young Hustler who defied top-weight two years later, and Hello Bud in 2010.
Indian Tonic scored unchallenged by six lengths and went on to win the Topham Chase later in the same season, while Young Hustler, who won the Grade One RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in 1993, put in a superb round of jumping to score by the same margin. Hello Bud, winner of the Scottish Grand National in 2009, made nearly all the running under Sam Twiston-Davies to score by a length and a quarter from Royal Rosa.
Top-weight Young Kenny was cheered home in 2000 as the market leader, beating subsequent winner Ardent Scout by half a length for popular Yorkshire-based trainer Peter Beaumont. The Ardross gelding fell on his only attempt at the John Smith’s Grand National, but he did win the Scottish version in 1999.
Into The Red is the only dual winner of the Betfred Becher Handicap Chase so far. He was victorious for trainer John White in 1994, when coming home unchallenged by 15 lengths from Feathered Gale and then, two years later, when under the care of Mary Reveley, he ran on well for Tony Dobbin to score by three and a half lengths and deny 1995 victor Young Hustler successive wins. Dobbin was on the scoresheet again three years later aboard the Nicky Richards-trained Feels Like Gold. The 11-year-old galloped clear of his opponents and eventually won eased down, with Him Of Praise taking the runner-up spot.
The Paul Nicholls-trained Silver Birch justified favouritism in the 2004 Betfred Becher Handicap Chase under Ruby Walsh to master Just In Debt by a length in a thrilling renewal. He also captured the Welsh National in 2004 and, after being sold out of Nicholls’ stable for just 20,000 guineas, made one of the greatest comebacks to win the 2007 John Smith’s Grand National for Irish trainer Gordon Elliott.
Ned Mitchell’s Garvivonnian became the first Irish-trained winner of the Betfred Becher Handicap Chase in 2005. He held on in a thrilling finish from the fast-finishing Nicholls-trained Le Duc by three quarters of a length, with Just In Debt a neck away in third.
Nicholls claimed his second win in the Betfred Becher Handicap Chase in 2006 with Eurotrek, who defied top-weight to defeat Bewleys Berry and 19 others in decisive fashion under Liam Heard, though there was drama after the last when it momentarily looked as if the winning jockey was going to take the wrong course. The champion trainer was back for more in 2007 when saddling Mr Pointment. The eight-year-old excelled over the Grand National obstacles, beating the previous year’s runner-up Bewleys Berry by a length.
There was a fine front-running performance in 2008 from Black Apalachi, under Denis O'Regan, who galloped resolutely all the way to the line to secure success in the Betfred Becher Handicap Chase. The 15/2 chance, trained by Dessie Hughes in Ireland, came home a distance clear of the second Mr Pointment in the three and a quarter mile event, with his stablemate Oulart a further half-length back in third. Black Apalachi was several lengths clear and going well when unseating Denis O’Regan at Becher’s Brook on the second circuit in the 2009 Grand National but returned the following year to finish a gallant second to Don’t Push It.
Top-weight Vic Venturi, also trained by Hughes, became the third Irish-trained winner when scoring by five lengths under Paddy Flood in 2009. The Old Vic gelding, who captured the Grade Two Bobbyjo Chase later in the season, failed to complete in three attempts in the John Smith’s Grand National, unseating his rider in 2010, being brought down in 2011 and refusing in 2012.
West End Rocker gave trainer Alan King his first Betfred Becher Handicap Chase success in 2011, drawing away impressively under Wayne Hutchinson in the heavy conditions to score by 22 lengths from 2009 Irish Grand National hero Niche Market.
Chance Du Roy just prevailed over Baby Run in an epic renewal in 2013.
Sam Waley-Cohen a specialist over the National Fences and Oscar Time, twice placed in the National, won the 2014 renewal at 25/1
The Betfred Becher Handicap Chase attracts plenty of runners, many of whom are having their first start over the Grand National fences and the race is seen as one of the best John Smith’s Grand National trials, with two winners - Amberleigh House and Silver Birch - going on to success in the world’s greatest chase. Four favourites have prevailed - Young Hustler (1995), Young Kenny (2000), Silver Birch (2004) and Hello Bud (2010) - but there have also been three shock results - Amberleigh House was a 33/1 chance in 2001, while Garvivonnian (33/1 - 2005) and Eurotrek (25/1 - 2006) also caused upsets.