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How To bet £20 ante-post on the Becher Chase at Aintree

By Andy Stephens@StevoGG
Tue 30 Nov 2021

Andy Stephens has struck with Dans Le Vent, advised at 25-1, and Cloudy Glen, at 40-1, for the past two Saturdays and is hoping to complete a memorable hat-trick this weekend.

One of racing’s great mysteries is that no horse has won the Grand National having run in the Becher Chase earlier in the season.

It makes no sense, given that the latter race - introduced in 1992 as a trial for the big one in April - is run over the same spruce fences (only nine fewer); is targeted by connections who have National ambitions and requires the same attributes – stamina, jumping prowess and courage - needed to win the world’s most famous race four months later.

The closest any Becher winner has come to completing the double was Clan Royal, who won the 2003 running before finishing runner-up in the big one. Two Becher winners, Amberleigh House in 2001 and Silver Birch in 2004, did go on to win the Grand National, but each had to wait another couple of seasons before hitting the jackpot.

Of course, there is a chance Saturday’s winner, or narrow loser(s), will not even run in the Grand National because he or she is not rated high enough for the Aintree showpiece. After all, no horse rated lower than 145 made the cut this year and Saturday’s 26 Becher possibles, after Monday’s declarations, include 15 below that mark.

I believe the Grand National would benefit from three specific races – the Becher Chase, Welsh National and Haydock Grand National Trial – being “win and you are in contests” with, if necessary, the victors subsequently running off the lowest weight if connections wanted to take up the challenge.

This year’s race was poorer for the absence of Secret Reprieve, the unexposed Welsh National hero, who ended up stranded as second reserve. And the 2015 Becher winner, Highland Lodge, found himself surplus to requirements after his connections had effectively surrendered the rest of his campaign.

At the very least, I think the winners of the Becher, Welsh National and Haydock contest should not be at the mercy of a toss-of-a-coin as to whether they get in or not, which remains a possibility given the way eliminations are structured. They should automatically rise to the top of their particular weight range to avoid that scenario.

 Achille has plenty going for him in the Becher Chase (Focusonracing)
Achille has plenty going for him in the Becher Chase (Focusonracing)

Anyway, I digress. Who wins on Saturday?

It promises to be a well-up-to-scratch renewal with the classy Chris’s Dream set to compete off 162 for Henry de Bromhead after being taken out of last Saturday's Ladbrokes Trophy at the overnight stage.

Only two higher-rated horses have run in the race: Gold Cup winner Cool Ground ran off 177 (and fell) in the inaugural running and Young Hustler competed off 164 when winning in 1995.

Chris’s Dream was running well in this year’s Grand National when unseating four out and his subsequent absence is not a worry as he usually goes well when fresh. The nine-year-old should also get his favoured easy ground with rain forecast throughout the week, and his presence means nine of those still engaged are languishing out of the handicap proper.

He is likely to put up a bold show but my eye is drawn to Achille, quoted at 25-1 by Betfair, bet365 and Paddy Power, and Escaria Ten, who is available at 9-1 with Betfred and William Hill.

Achille has clearly not been the easiest to train - he’s had only 14 runs in the past six years - but he ran crackers in each of his three races last term and represents a trainer, Venetia Williams, on the crest of a wave after the Ladbrokes Trophy success of Cloudy Glen.

Narrow defeats in the Classic Chase and Haydock Park Grand National Trial were followed by a close sixth in the Midlands National when not seen to best advantage. Given his history, it was great to see him put three solid runs together back-to-back.

The grey is a fluent jumper who travels well and, like so many of Dom Alco’s stock, he gives the impression he could gallop all day. The demands of Aintree should play to his strengths and it will be a case of the more rain the better, not least because he will have only 10st 5lb to shoulder if Chris's Dream stands his ground.

Chance Du Roy (2013) and Vieux Lion Rouge (2016) have been the only winners of this in the past decade to strike first time up, but Achille’s record when fresh is encouraging and Williams has few peers when it comes to teeing a horse up after an absence. Cloudy Glen’s Newbury triumph was gained without the benefit of a prep run, while her two big Ascot winners the previous Saturday were also making their seasonal reappearances.

Escaria Ten ran a cracker at Cheltenham

Williams has a second candidate in Didero Vallis, who has experience of the National fences, but I’d be surprised if jockey Charlie Deustch were to desert Achille.

Escaria Ten had only four spins over hurdles and progressed well as a novice last season, showing what he was all about when a close third behind Galvin and Next Destination in the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham.

Galvin has not stood still since, while Snow Leopardess (a good winner on her return this term who is set to reoppose) and Remastered (who would surely have gone close in the Ladbrokes Trophy but for falling four out) finished fourth and fifth, giving the form a glow.

Escaria Ten disappointed in the Irish National soon after, but was almost certainly not over his exertions at Cheltenham.

A mark of 152 may well underestimate him and, while a little short of experience, there is clearly scope for him to keep improving. Gordon Elliott said on Monday that both he and Ravenhill were intended runners.

Mac Tottie, winner of the Grand Sefton this month; the admirable Vieux Lion Rouge, a two-time winner of this race; and Kimberlite Candy, runner-up in the past two renewals, will have their supporters, while Scottish Grand National winner Mighty Thunder will warrant a second look.

There's plenty of depth but Achille is the one who ticks the most boxes, and Escaria Ten is the one yet to reach his ceiling. Let’s just hope the weather forecasters have got their sums right and the ground is at least on the soft side.

How To bet £20 ante-post on the Becher Chase

£10 win and £3 each-way on Achille at 25-1 with Betfair, bet365 and Paddy Power (four places)

£4 win on Escaria Ten at 9-1 with Betfred and William Hill

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