Every season we analyse the result of the Becher Chase and try and work out whether the winner of this early-season trail will come back next April and win the Grand National itself, but are we barking up the wrong tree completely?
Well firstly no horse has ever returned to do the double in the same season, and secondly, Grand National winners coming out of the Becher are as rare as finding hen’s teeth. Only two horses have managed to complete the historic feat – those being Amberleigh House (Becher 2001/GN 2004) and Silver Birch (Becher 2004/GN 2007).
Could potential Grand National winners be lurking down the field perhaps? More on that later in this article.
Becher Chase 2020
Returning back to Saturday’s Becher renewal and never was the racing phrase “horses for courses” more apt than when the David Pipe-trained Vieux Lion Rouge (12/1) won the Becher Chase for a second time.
The 11-year-old was running in the race for the fifth time, having won it back in 2016. He has now successfully negotiated 223 National fences in his Becher and Grand National exploits combined.
His first victory was measured as a mere short head, his second – a whopping 24 lengths!
Kimberlite Candy (14-1) was the runner-up for the second successive year. While Le Breuil, who went off the 5-1 favourite, was back in third. Calipso Collonges was further adrift in fourth spot.
Emotional scenes at Pond House as we watched our veteran superstar Vieux Lion Rouge win the Becher chase @AintreeRaces for the 2nd time under beautiful ride from @CoFarrell20 #2bechers #223nationalfencesjumped #ourhero🥇🍾🥰 pic.twitter.com/R61hf4msim
— David Pipe (@DavidPipeRacing) December 5, 2020
Those considering having a bet on Vieux Lion Rouge may want to take heed however. David Pipe said “He doesn’t seem to stay the Grand National trip and I didn’t think he’d even get into the race before today, but now he might.”
Winning jockey O’Farrell said of the veteran: “That was super. He’s an old star who knows his way around here and is brilliant over those fences.
“There was plenty of pace today, so we took our time and let him get into a rhythm and he saw it out very well.
“There was a lot going on, but the course is wide enough and you can give yourself light everywhere if you want to.
“He has a fair record over these fences and to win this race for a second time, at his age, is fantastic.”
— David Pipe (@DavidPipeRacing) December 6, 2020
Betfair Sportsbook and Paddy Power are both around 50/1 antepost for Vieux Lion Rouge for the Grand National but he looks like a very chancy pick at this juncture.
One reason being, as David Pipe alluded to, he doesn’t really stay the Grand National trip out and another, he’s not certain to go down the National route anyway.
The Rest Of The Field
Of much more interest for ante-post purposes are the horses that finished in behind Vieux Lion Rouge, with the first of those being the gallant runner-up Kimberlite Candy.
The J.P McManus-owned eight-year-old certainly has more scope for progression than the winner this season, and his trainer Tom Lacey will be plotting his future races with the Grand National in mind.
Lacey said afterwards: “He’s run an absolute cracker, but nobody wants to be second.
“I saw most of the race on the big screen and it looked like he put in an almost perfect round of jumping, excluding the first.
“He’s run a cracker, but obviously we’re hugely disappointed to bump into a very impressive winner.
“He’s done nothing wrong and seems to relish these fences. I can’t see why he won’t be back here in April if we get a wet spring, but we’ll get over today first and speak to Frank Berry (racing manager to JP McManus) and see what the plan is – maybe the Classic Chase at Warwick will be an option again.”
Kimberlite Candy is a best-priced 33/1 antepost chance with William Hill.
The horse with the biggest potential to be a Grand National type/winner out of the top trio is the third placed Le Breuil, trained by Ben Pauling.
Luckily we missed the snow but I don't think anyone else did!
Best of Luck to Everyone pic.twitter.com/DuMzV9OoE5
— Ben Pauling Racing (@benpauling1) December 5, 2020
The former National Hunt Chase winner did almost everything right on Saturday except for making one shuddering error four fences from home which put paid to any chances he still had of winning.
Pauling told reporters: said: “Kielan (Woods) doesn’t know how he stood up at the ditch – it was a mad mistake and it knocked the stuffing out of him.
“He paid the price for that one mistake, but apart from that he’s run a blinder and he’s quite clearly able to jump these fences.
“The aim would be to come back here in April, but at the moment his mark would be nowhere near getting in and we’ve got a few pounds to find.”
Somewhere along the line Pauling needs to improve Le Breuil by a couple of pounds to at least have a live chance of scraping into the Grand National off bottom weight.
The ideal race for doing just that may be the Classic Chase in the New Year at Warwick? It has Le Breuil’s running style written all over it and looks the most logical option for his next outing.
Currently trading at 40/1 in the ante-post betting (08.12.20), Le Breuil is worth a speculative each-way punt if you are looking for a long shot for the National this side of Christmas.
The Grand Sefton
The Grand Sefton Handicap Chase does not always lend itself to finding a National winner, more a Topham horse if anything, but it is a result worth taking note of as competitors that run it in often step up in distance as the season progresses.
A recent example of this being Gas Line Boy who won this in 2017, then came back the following April to finish seventh to Tiger Roll.
Beau Bay wins the last race of the day 👏🏼
📸 PA Images pic.twitter.com/Z38i6KnOBK
— Aintree Racecourse (@AintreeRaces) December 5, 2020
The Dr Richard Newland-trained nine-year-old Beau Bay (20/1) made his decisive move at the elbow to take top honours and will more than likely to return next April for the Topham.
Dr Newland however is no stranger to Grand National glory having famously won the Aintree marathon with Pineau De Re in 2014.
Beau Bay is currently not quoted for next April’s National but things could easily change between now and then if Newland has a change of heart.