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The Randox Health Becher Chase at Aintree: Six runners for any shortlist

By Tom Thurgood@tdthurgood
Fri 6 Dec 2019

The Grand National fences mark their return this weekend for the Randox Health Becher Chase and 26 have been entered for Saturday’s £150,000 prize at Aintree.

While some may point out this course does not present as stern a test as yesteryear before the well-documented course modifications in 2013, it is still true that the Grand National course is a unique test for horses plus is also a great spectacle.

Previous winners often come back here and run well in subsequent years, while those older horses with valuable course experience that might just prove vulnerable in the Grand National relish this contest.

Hello Bud, Oscar Time, The Last Samurai, Highland Lodge and Vieux Lion Rouge are some recent examples and a few runners among the 18 declared match that profile this time.

The ratings band of a general top-four finisher has gone up in recent years, but we are still looking at a chaser rated in the low to mid-140s here.

We have highlighted six contenders to consider.

ALPHA DES OBEAUX

Trainer: Gordon Elliott. Odds: 14-1.

Form over Grand National fences: F

Alpha Des Obeaux finished third at Grade One level last time out

The nine-year-old was going quite nicely in the Grand National 18 months ago but carted himself towards the front and failed to pick up at The Chair before crashing out at the halfway stage.

He was slightly underwhelming in Grade One company last time, but that tells you the level he can operate at and this race looks his most feasible assignment this year.

He has a string of good efforts in big-field handicap chases and more prominent tactics than his first attempt over these fences can eke out improvement on his second try. Despite the handicapper not doing him any great favours, this likeable type can go well.

KIMBERLITE CANDY

Trainer: Tom Lacey. Odds: 16-1.

Form over Grand National fences: First attempt

Kimberlite Candy has some strong handicap form next to his name_

The 136-rated chaser is something of a mercurial character and has more to find with Saturday’s rivals, but he looks feasibly handicapped and connections have placed him with conditions in his favour.

Jockey Richie McLernon has urged Tom Lacey to give this horse a crack over the Grand National fences and the trainer is sending the seven-year-old straight to Aintree.

Generally a good jumper, he is best fresh and should get his preferred soft ground. Whether he can repel the experience and guile of some hardier campaigners is another question, but this first run over the Grand National fences will tell connections more.

MYSTEREE

Trainer: Michael Scudamore. Odds: 14-1.

Form over the Grand National fences: First attempt

Watch how Mysteree scored at Kelso last time out

Mysteree will be 12 in a few weeks, but this great servant is in the form of his life and posted a career-best at Kelso on his reappearance last time out plus handed a good beating to the likes of One For Arthur and Vintage Clouds in that race.

Connections are keen to have a crack at the Grand National with this likeable stayer and need to get his rating higher to keep Aintree dreams alive.

Mysteree is a stout stayer and is a sound jumper, and while the Grand National fences represent something of an unknown, he arrives here genuinely on the up and his experienced profile is not what you would typically expect from a first-timer over these obstacles.

He looks slightly underestimated at the early prices.

ONE FOR ARTHUR

Trainer: Lucinda Russell. Odds: 8-1.

Form over Grand National fences: 516

Relive One For Arthur's victory in the Grand National

The Grand National hero of two years ago has endured his issues but shaped nicely on his reappearance at Kelso last month, jumping pretty well by his standards and staying on resolutely for fourth.

One For Arthur was fifth in the Becher before his National triumph and older horses with high-class form over the National fences have proven fruitful to follow in this race.

The ten-year-old is down 2lb in the handicap following an encouraging run and one which is he entitled to benefit from fitness-wise, while he is now just 1lb higher than for his Grand National success. He has pretty sound place prospects.

VINTAGE CLOUDS

Trainer: Sue Smith. Odds: 8-1.

Form over Grand National fences: F

Vintage Clouds finished a close second at last season's Cheltenham Festival

Vintage Clouds looked primed for a big run in the Aintree spectacular last term after a blinding effort in the Ultima at Cheltenham but unfortunately came to grief at the first fence.

He ran respectably enough just a week later in the Scottish Grand National, while on his return he looked like falling out of the back of the screen at Kelso before staying on quite admirably for fifth of the seven runners behind Mysteree and One For Arthur in fourth.

Sue Smith’s runners invariably improve throughout the season and after a luckless autumn the trainer is finally in the winners, so decent improvement can be expected from Vintage Clouds. A racing weight of 10st12lb appeals provided Alpha Des Obeaux or Ballyoptic stand their ground.

WALK IN THE MILL

Trainer: Robert Walford. Odds: 9-1.

Form over Grand National fences: 14

Walk In The Mill landed this contest last year

This nine-year-old loves this course and landed the Becher last year before a fine fourth in the Grand National last spring.

Walk In The Mill had his season pipe-opener in the Badger Beers at Wincanton and Robert Walford has subsequently given his stable star the thumbs up after that reappearance.

There is nothing particularly original about his inclusion in this shortlist, but that is no bad thing where the Becher is concerned and Walk In The Mill should get his favoured soft ground, too. Only rated 1lb higher than last year, he should go close once again.

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