It was quite the afternoon on Merseyside on Saturday, December 3rd, as Grand National winners and future hopefuls lined up in both the Becher Chase 2022 and the Many Clouds Chase.

It was, of course, the Becher Chase 2022 that was the feature and leading home the 22-strong field was the Dan Skelton-trained/Harry Skelton-ridden Ashtown Lad (5/1).

A smart novice chaser last term, the eight-year-old travelled fluently throughout before stamping his authority on the race after jumping the last and going on to score by two and a quarter lengths from the 4-1 favourite, Gesskille.

Percussion and Fortescue filled out the third and fourth positions.

Reaction To The Win

The Darren Yates-owned gelding immediately received a 33/1 quote for the 2023 Grand National; however it is far from clear whether Ashtown Lad will actually be aimed at the Aintree marathon.

Speaking to reporters, Dan Skelton said: “The Grand National is one of the obvious races to target and Darren (Yates) who owns him harbours a serious interest in it.

“Whether a win over the fences increases that desire, I don’t know but I think we’ll need to think very hard about the trip.

“I know he’s a year older but last year he didn’t stay in the Scottish National and this trip of three miles and a quarter is probably more like it, but he’s a year older and who’s to say he won’t get it in time.

“He loves the jumps though and that’s vital.”

The Oliver Greenall/Josh Guerriero trained runner-up Gesskille is a best-priced 50/1 shot with most bookmakers, whilst Percussion and Fortescue are both 66/1 pokes.

Silver Birch was the last dual Becher Chase and Grand National winner, lifting the Becher in 2004 and the BIG one in 2007.

Noble Yeats Comes From Out Of The Clouds

Not only is the Emmet Mullins-trained Noble Yeats a strong contender to win back-to-back Grand Nationals, he’s also become one of the leading contenders for this year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup too.

Racing in the three mile and one furlong Many Clouds Chase, Noble Yeats produced what can only be described as a “rocket propelled” burst of the speed in the dying embers of the race, to swoop by the duelling pairing of Dashel Drasher and Ahoy Senor.

Mullins said after the race: “He has the option (of both the Grand National and the Gold Cup) and we’ll keep both options open as long as we can.

“He’s opened the door a bit wider (for the Gold Cup) after that and whether we can get our heads through is another thing.”

Bookmakers reacted to the success of Noble Yeats by making him 8-1 (from 12-1) for the 2023 Grand National, 6-1 (from 25-1) for the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day and 10-1 (from 25-1) for the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

No More National Reserves

In a slightly odd move, supposedly in order to placate the BHA, media outlets, international media rights holders and bookmakers, it was announced by Aintree Racecourse that the reserves system for the Grand National will be discontinued from the 2023 running onwards.

First introduced in 2000, the system allowed four reserves for the Grand National following the final 48-hour declaration stage. Apparently because a small number of people got confused by the fact that the reserves took the racecard position of the relevant non-runner, the reserve system will be scrapped.

Common sense would suggest adopting a very simple system of numbering your Grand National reserves 41-44, but unfortunately nobody in racing administration has been able to grasp that concept.

Since the year 2000, a total of 13 horses have obtained a run in the Grand National courtesy of the reserve system, most recently three of them made it into the field proper in 2022.