Not only is the annual Becher Chase run over the Grand National fences but for the next three years it will also have the same sponsor with Randox Health agreeing a three-year deal starting next month.
Dr Peter FitzGerald, founder and managing director of Randox Health, said: “We’re delighted to sponsor the Becher Chase, which year-on-year is becoming a more prominent day in the racing calendar for high-calibre horses to compete. With the ongoing work being done by the team at Aintree, that’s no surprise.
“Aintree is a spectacular course and though we will obviously miss the return of One For Arthur, having an open field as we begin the run up to the most exciting race in the whole calendar – the 2018 Grand National – will add an unexpected frisson for racing fans.”
The £145,000 race, which will take place at Aintree Racecourse on Saturday 9th December, received 60 entries for the 2017 renewal and with the weights now out, it’s the 2016 Grand National runner-up, The Last Samuri, who tops the list and looks set to carry 11-12 for Kim Bailey’s yard.
Bailey said: “The Last Samuri is in good form and on course for the Randox Health Becher Chase.
“It was a good run at Kempton and, provided he is in the same sort of form as he is now in two weeks’ time, he should have a very good chance.
“We will get the Becher Chase out the way first before deciding where we go for the rest of the season.”
A general 12/1 with both Paddy Power and Betfair, The Last Samuri still has a solid chance of doing well in the Becher but it’s Blaklion that has caught the bookies eye with incredibly short odds of 4/1 ante-post. This is despite the fact that there has’t been a winner carrying more than 10-12 since 2009 and Blaklion will be carrying 11-06.
Go Conquer from Jonjo O’Neil is tied for second favourite at ante-post odds of 10/1 and will run off 11-04 which is the weight he won off back in October at Fontwell. Present Man from Paul Nicholls is also around 10/1 and also on good form going into the race with two back-to-back wins under his belt.
Further down the weights, Ucello Conti has been given 10-13 but he hasn’t had a run since unseating Daryl Jacob in the 2017 Grand National. But if the break has refreshed him then odds of 14/1 aren’t too shabby.
Three Faces West is an interesting potential contender from Philip Hobbs. One of four entries from owners Paul and Claire Rooney, he is relatively lightly chased with only seven starts but with three wins and a further three places he does know how to make it into the money. Running off a weight of 10-11 also gives him a solid advantage as well his good current form so ante-post odds of 20/1 are well worth a punt – if you don’t mind that he has only run once this season.
Whatever way the Becher Chase goes, undoubtedly it will lead to wild speculation about the Grand National 2018 prospects for those that do well.