McNamara dares to dream
Grand National runner-up The Last Samuri heads the weights for the £140,000 Betfred Becher Chase at Aintree on Saturday, December 3.
The Becher Chase is Dare To Endeavour's big target
The Last Samuri (Kim Bailey, 11st 12lb) was fifth on his comeback this season in the Grade One JNWine.com Champion Chase at Down Royal on November 5 and is one of three entries for owners Paul & Clare Rooney.
Their colours could also be carried by the sponsors' 8/1 favourite Three Faces West (Philip Hobbs, 11st), who routed the opposition in three-mile handicap chase at Haydock Park last weekend, and recent Hexham scorer Beeves (Jennie Candlish, 10st 4lb).
Owners Ann & Alan Potts look to have two leading contenders in Viconte Du Noyer (11st 7lb, Colin Tizzard), who relished the step up to just shy of three and a half miles in a valuable handicap chase at Cheltenham earlier this month, and 2015 Irish Grand National third Sizing Coal (Jim Dreaper IRE, 10st 3lb).
Highland Lodge (Jimmy Moffatt, 10st 4lb) is on course to try and become the first back-to-back winner of the race after a two and a quarter length victory over Dare To Endeavour (10st 2lb) last year.
Dare To Endeavour's trainer Eric McNamara is hoping his charge can go one better on December 3 following two good performances so far this season. The nine-year-old was not beaten far in a handicap hurdle at Listowel in September and last time out finished fifth behind Tiger Roll in the Munster National at Limerick on October 9.
McNamara said: "The Betfred Becher Chase is Dare To Endeavour's big target for the season. He schooled over fences this week and jumped super, so all being well he will be there.
"I thought he ran well at Limerick in a very competitive race, especially given the ground was quick enough for him.
"The big Aintree fences bring out the best in him and hopefully there will be a nice ease in the ground. The softer the ground the better really. If he gets that, we would be hoping for a really good run.
"We are hoping to get him high enough rated for the Randox Health Grand National this season and winning the Becher will obviously be a big help in that regard.
"He is that type of horse in that he is an exceptionally good jumper who stays well and we need to use that to bring out the best in him."
There are 14 Irish-trained entries in total. Gordon Elliott's six-strong team includes Grand National sixth Ucello Conti (11st 1lb) and Cheltenham Festival scorer Empire Of Dirt (11st 4lb), while Mouse Morris's trio features the last two winners of the Irish Grand National in Rogue Angel (10st 12lb) and Thunder And Roses (10st 11lb).
Other contenders include bet365 Gold Cup winner The Young Master (Neil Mulholland, 11st 3lb), Shutthefrontdoor (Jonjo O'Neill, 11st 1lb) and Firebird Flyer (Evan Williams, 10st 8lb), who landed the Midlands Grand National in March.