Becher’s Brook: one of the challenges facing runners in the Becher Chase
PICTURE: Getty Images
By David Baxter 6:11PM 2 DEC 2016
It is another great Saturday of jumps action, with Randox Grand National hopefuls taking on the Aintree fences in the Betfred Becher Chase, while the Grade 1 Betfair Tingle Creek has an illustrious role of honour. So how to find this season’s winners?
Nicholls and Moore monopoly
The Tingle Creek build-up this week may have been dominated by which Willie Mullins horse would run, but in recent years Gary Moore and Paul Nicholls have been the trainers to follow.
Nicholls won the race for six straight years with Kauto Star, Master Minded and Twist Magic all claiming it twice between 2005 and 2010, and he struck again in 2014 with Dodging Bullets.
Moore has been the man recently, with Sire De Grugy successful in 2013 and last year and he is back again along with stablemate Ar Mad, while Nicholls is represented by Vibrato Valtat.
If Sire De Grugy is to win for a third time, then he will match the achievement of Flagship Uberalles who was successful in 1999, 2000 and 2001. Sire De Grugy would also be the first ten-year-old to win since Moscow Flyer in 2004.
With seven fences taken in quick succession down the back straight and a stamina-sapping stiff uphill finish to negotiate at the end, the two-mile course at Sandown provides a stern examination of a horse’s resolution and their ability to jump at speed.
It is perhaps no surprise that class tends to come to the fore in the Tingle Creek. Seven of the last ten winners have gone into the race boasting the highest official rating.
This year Un De Sceaux heads the ratings by 3lb from Sire De Grugy. On the figures, Un De Sceaux’s best performance was his five-length defeat of Sire De Grugy in the Grade 1 Clarence House Chase and Willie Mullins’ representative has finished ahead of Gary Moore’s stalwart on all three occasions they’ve met.
Past experience counts
Given the unique challenge Aintree’s National fences present, those with previous experience of the course fare well in the two big race on Saturday; the Betfred Becher Chase and Betfred Grand Sefton Handicap Chase.
In the Becher Chase, no winner since Vic Venturi (2009) had not tackled the National course before, and in the Grand Sefton the majority of recent winners had either tried the National fences, or had winning form at the track.
Interestingly, in the fields for the two races this year, there are only two runners who have won over the National fences. Highland Lodge bids to follow up in the Becher Chase, while Bennys Mist also tries to defend his title in the Grand Sefton.
Age is not always but a number, as older runners fare well in both races. Hello Bud won the Becher Chase as a 12 and 14-year-old, while Eurotrek (ten, 2006) and Oscar Time (13, 2014) have also won the race in the last ten years.
In the Grand Sefton, no horse aged older than ten, or younger than eight, has won since 2006. Applying that criterion rigidly knocks out half of the field for this year’s race.