Well, the Becher Chase Day at Aintree turned out to be just as informative as we thought it would be with many of the horses that we predicted would go well doing just that.

One horse who won’t be heading back to Aintree next April is the Sue Smith-trained Vintage Clouds. He clearly hated every single minute of the Becher Chase last Saturday and it just so proved that his first-fence fall in this year’s renewal was no coincidence. The grey, owned by three-time National winner Trevor Hemmings, was pulled up shortly after ploughing a hole through The Chair with Smith saying that we will see him back over regular fences in the future.

There was no such issue however with the unique Aintree fences for the Robert Walford-trained Walk In The Mill (8/1) who became the first horse to win back-to-back renewals of the Becher Chase. The Baroness Harding-owned nine-year-old came home two-and-a-half lengths clear of the Tom Lacey-trained Kimberlite Candy (11/1).

Gordon Elliott’s Alpha Des Obeaux (12/1) ran a fine race to be a further eight lengths back in third and he will now form part of Elliott’s squad for more Aintree glory in the spring. Definitly Red (8/1) finished a further four lengths back in fourth with 2017 Grand National hero One For Arthur running on into fifth.

Walk In The Mill

It is now almost a given that the top five in the Becher Chase will now all be aimed at the 2020 Grand National with the intention of dethroning to current two-time champion, Tiger Roll. Walford’s winner however advertised his claims more than most and he has to rank now as a really serious challenger to Tiger Roll’s hat-trick bid next April.

Walford said: “He’s a great horse, and he just loves it round here and stays all day.

“It’s a jumping test, and a stamina test – perfect for him. He’s got no gears, and he just keeps going.

“I think probably the four mile suits him better than this really – but the problem is it’s a slightly better race.

“If he’s on a rating where we know he’s going to get in (the National), we’ll probably keep him over hurdles until then, because he’s a novice. If we feel he needs to go up in the weights a bit more, we might need to run him over fences again.”

Le Breuil

As we indicated last week all roads will now lead to the Grand National for Ben Pauling’s Le Breuil following his encouraging effort over the famous fences on Saturday. The litmus test for the National Hunt Chase victor was whether he would take to the Aintree fences in the Becher, but he jumped them with aplomb and spent a fair while racing up in the vanguard before fading back to seventh place, beaten 20 lengths in all by Walk In The Mill.

Pauling said: “Le Breuil was very good on Saturday and jumped brilliantly. Jamie Codd said he hasn’t ridden many that have jumped around Aintree as well as him, those were his words.

“He travelled into the race well and then got tired going across the Melling Road. It was basically like his first run of the season, as he didn’t really have a race at Wetherby.

“He didn’t stop and kept galloping, so I think it’s all systems go for the National and he’ll be prepared accordingly.”

Hogan’s Height

Meanwhile, the 16-length runaway winner of the Grand Sefton Chase, Hogan’s Height has been given a 12lb hike in the weights by the handicapper which will almost guarantee his place in the 2020 Grand National.

The Foxtrot Racing syndicate and trainer Jamie Snowden certainly have an interesting contender on their hands for next April’s renewal. Away from the two races run over the National course, and there was also a significant result with Grand National implications when Native River lifted the Many Clouds Chase.

Although the Gold Cup is ultimately his aim again this season, Native River will be given a Grand National entry. And possibly will run along with stablemate Elegant Escape Assistant trainer Joe Tizzard indicated: “Garth and Anne (the owners) are slowly coming around to the idea, and it would suit him.

“He will certainly have an entry and we’ll see how this season develops before making a decision closer to the time.”