Prayer the answer to the Becher
Ian Ogg analyses the last 10 renewals of the Betfred Becher Chase at Aintree and picks out the key statistics.
Midnight Prayer looks overpriced in the Becher Chase
The Betfred Becher Chase is usually won by a horse that races prominently and by older runners with only one winner in the last decade aged younger than nine.
As such, it's very tempting to put a line through leading contenders such as Viconte Du Noyer, The Young Master and Vieux Lion Rouge especially given that only two seven-year-olds have been successful in the race's 24 year history.
One of those was subsequent Grand National winner Silver Birch (then trained by Paul Nicholls) and the other was Indian Tonic (Nigel Twiston-Davies) in 1993. Both of those trainers have saddled two winners apiece in the last 10 years although the former is not represented this time.
Putting a line through eight-year-olds – there are five in the field – is also considered given that they have managed just one winner but that action seems rather draconian. However, The Last Samuri can be struck off given his high handicap mark.
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Double Ross, who ran so well in the Hennessy, is also on the ratings cusp alongside Aachen and Ucello Conti and it may pay to look a little further down the handicap.
Among those is last year's winner Highland Lodge who bids to become the second dual winner, following on from Twiston-Davies' Hello Bud who won in 2010 and 2012.
Jimmy Moffatt's 10-year-old is only 5lbs higher than when beating the re-opposing Dare To Endeavour (1lb higher) by two and quarter lengths. He arrives without a prep run this year but has run well enough fresh in the past for that not to be too much of a concern although the majority of winners have raced during the current season.
Portrait King, last year's selection for this column, comes here on the back of a couple of spins over hurdles; he was firmly in contention when falling two from home 12 months ago and there's no reason why he shouldn't give another good account.
Silvergrove appeals as the right type for this race but has yet to win above class three level and proved desperately disappointing on his reappearance.
In contrast, Midnight Prayer and Alvarado both shaped with promise and the latter, who has twice placed fourth in the Grand National, has been ridden more prominently of late which is encouraging for his prospects in this contest as is the form of trainer Fergal O'Brien.
The eleven-year-old has attracted support through the week and merits respect but backing either Midnight Prayer, Highland Lodge or Dare To Endeavour at prices between 16/1 and 25/1 (at the time of writing) makes more appeal.
Although he lacks experience of the course (something which has been a positive in recent years), the vote goes to Alan King's runner who was good enough to win a National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in 2014 and performed creditably on his first season back from injury last term.
- Winners have been aged 8, 9 (five), 10, 12, 13 and 14.
- Winners have carried between 10-0 and 11-12 with seven weighted at 10-12 or less.
- Winners have won from marks between 130 and 148 with seven of the last eight between 130 & 138.
- Winners have been priced between 15/2 and 25/1 with four in single figures and three at 20s or bigger.
- One favourite has been successful.
- Nine winners either led or raced close to the pace.
- Four winners finished in the first five on their preceding start while five failed to complete.
- Nine winners had been placed or won over three miles or beyond.
- All of the winners had been successful in a race of 13 runners or more.
- Nine winners had won a class two chase or above.
- Three winners (but none of the last six) were making their course debut.
- Eight winners had had at least 12 chase starts – the two exceptions were trained by Paul Nicholls.
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