Highlight of the day's action at Aintree is the time-honoured Becher Chase, no doubt featuring a lot of Grand National hopefuls.
Resuming after a long spell to dissect the field for us is Sam Tribe, @samtribe87.
The Betfair Becher Chase
£140,000, Grade 3, 3m2f
1335 local, 0235 AEDT
The Betfair Becher Chase is the first race of the season over the famous Grand National Hunt Fences. It is never an easy race to pick a winner and this year's renewal is no exception with 23 runners set to go to post. After a search on Google and picking up on a tweet from another racing enthusiast, I have picked three trends from the past ten years that I hope will help me narrow the field and give me the best chance of finding a winner.
9 out of 10 winners have been Irish-trained. The only French-bred horse to win the race was Chance Du Roy in 2013 who has only ever fell at a fence in his nine year career so it's safe to say you are looking for a sound jumper as well as being Irish bred.
8 out of 10 winners have run in at least 13 chases. This race definitely favours the more experienced horses with 9 of the last 10 winners being aged nine or older.
Since fence modification, those yet to run in class of race are 0/94. So this refers to the modifications made in 2012 where the core of the National fences were soften in an attempt to reduce the rate of fatalities. It has worked but it has meant that, although still a challenge to jump, there are less fallers, which in turn has meant the better horses are more successful.
So from looking at these trends I am basically looking for an Irish-trained horse that has had a spin over the fences before and performed at a class 1 level. Simple... If only!
1. The Last Samuri 12/1
The last winner off top weight in this race was 2009 and that was the first since 2001 so the Kim Bailey stayer is certainly up against it. David Bass has also chosen to ride Charbel at Sandown as well rather than taking this ride in the Becher. Obvious positive is that he finished second in last year's Grand National so maybe foolish to rule out completely?
2. Viconte Du Noyer 11/1
Won over 3m3f at Cheltenham last month off a mark of 148 and has subsequently raised 6lbs for this. Tizzard is on fire at the moment so has a chance but he is American-bred which goes against him. He also has never had a run over the National fences so I am going to be bold and write him out of the running.
3. The Young Master 10/1
Won the lucrative Bet365 Gold Cup Chase back in April and that was the last time we saw him. A subsequent 200+ day break suggests that he will come on better for this run. Sam Waley-Cohen on his back though and knows how to win over these fences.
4. Double Ross 20/1
What a run in the Hennessy just seven days ago! That race was run at a relentless pace and must have taken it's toll on this ten year old surely? To turn him around so quickly suggests that he has come out of that race well but not well enough to feature this weekend. Surely?!
5. Aachen 50/1
His price suggests he hasn't really got a chance and I tend to agree. His last win came off a mark of 133 and with the ground more than likely being good-to-soft, I think this Venetia Williams twelve year old will struggle to go the pace.
6. Uchello Conti 9/1
Currently disputing favouritism, this Gordon Elliott-trained eight year old ticks a number of boxes. He ran and finished a creditable sixth in the Grand National last year, just running out of stamina in the closing stages, which suggests the shorter trip may suit. Negatives are that he is French-trained and maybe a little inexperienced in comparison to others, but I am clutching at straws. One to consider.
7. Saint Are 16/1
Okay so here is one of my fancies for the race even though he's French-bred and therefore goes against what I said in the intro. But it looks as if Tom George has had this race in mind for Saint Are. His three wins over fences have been at around the three mile mark so the trip should suit. His most notable piece of form though was finishing second in the 2015 Grand National and that confirms his ability over these fences. Down to a workable mark I'm hoping for a big race from this ten year old.
8. Rogue Angel 25/1
Has done all his campaigning in Ireland and the most notable piece of form is the win in the Irish Grand National back in April. Hasn't shown much this season and I feel fairly comfortable discounting this one.
9. Vieux Lion Rouge 10/1
I have a bit of a soft spot for this horse. I backed it in the Grand National when he just finished out of the places in seventh. That's the last we have seen of him though and I think if he would've had a prep run before this then I would be backing him for sure.
10. Silvergrove 16/1
This horse has never competed in a Class One Handicap Chase and has never had a run over the GN fences so I think it's fair to say that he won't feature.
11. Midnight Prayer 33/1
Another who has never had a run over these races but is a sound enough jumper so the fences shouldn't pose too much of a problem. The ground suggest they will go quite quickly in this and I think Midnight Prayer will struggle to keep with them.
12. Ziga Boy 16/1
The other Alan King runner and one that is causing me a bit of grief. His Class 1 win at Doncaster in January is a nice bit of form but he's only seven and you have to go back to 2004 to find the last winner at that age. His performances thus far this season have been poor but he keeps slipping down in the weights and perhaps he's ready to run a big race?
13. Beeves 33/1
Been campaigning in Class three contests and up against it here among a quality, experienced field. Won gamely last time out at Hexham so deserves his chance here.
14. Highland Lodge 16/1
Winner of last year's race hasn't been seen since being pulled up in the Scottish Grand National back in April. No horse has ever won this race back-to-back and I don't see that fact changing tomorrow.
15. One For Arthur 16/1
Has only eight chase starts to his name and has never jumped these fences so is seemingly up against it tomorrow. Another that won last time out and deserves his chance but others offer more appeal.
16. Sizing Coal 14/1
Another Irish raider whose only appearance on these shores was in last year's Midlands' National and was pulled up three out. He won nicely on bottomless ground last time out at Sligo but is another that might find the pace a little too strong.
17. Gas Line Boy 20/1
18. Alvarado 8/1
Current favourite and it's easy to see why. Finished fourth in the 2015 and the 2014 runnings of the Grand National and therefore won't find the fences much of a problem. Also finished second to Vicente in the Scottish National and his prep run at Cheltenham last month went well as he finished strongly. May need further than tomorrow's 3m2f but has the necessary experience to feature.
19. Milborough 40/1
I don't know a huge amount about this Ian Duncan-trained horse and nothing suggests to me that he will be in the frame tomorrow. Famous last words!
20. Bob Ford 40/1
I love this horse! Works hard when he is on song but tends to play up a bit. He ideally needs bottomless ground and therefore I'm pretty certain he won't feature tomorrow. Another stab at the Welsh National maybe his best chance of winning a Class 1 Chase this season.
21. Dare To Endeavour 18/1
Second in this last year off a 1lb lower mark so has the necessary experience to feature tomorrow. He finished a respectable fifth in his prep race at Limerick back in October and this would have been the target for connections. Big player if on song.
22. Cogry 16/1
Was running well at Cheltenham until he was brought down in a bizarre sequence of events where a loose horse refused a fence and ran down it. Subsequently Cogry smashed head on into the loose horse's side and sent Ryan Hatch flying! Should be able to keep with the pace and therefore if he jumps around safely is another possible contender a placed finish.
23. Portrait King 20/1
Has a couple of appearances over these fences to his name (fell late in both) so has the necessary experience. Would probably need it softer than it is going to be tomorrow and therefore I don't believe he will feature.
24. Financial Portrait 66/1
Sixth in this race last year but has struggled subsequently and is 23lbs out in the handicap. No hope.
Clearly a number with chances but at this point I have managed to narrow the field down to seven: THE LAST SAMURI I think will run a big race but carrying that weight I don't think he can win it, each-way claims at best. Another I feel confident in discounting for the win is COGRY who again has a big race in him but may need further and another year's worth of experience. Another that falls into that category is ZIGA BOY so that leaves four to pick a winner from...
UCHELLO CONTI, SAINT ARE, ALVARADO and DARE TO ENDEAVOUR make up my top four. Any of them could win and it's hard to pick one out of the line up to go onto win it but I'm going to have a punt on Tom George's SAINT ARE. He ticks a number of boxes and should have the ground in his favour.
1. Saint Are
3. Uchello Conti
4. Dare To Endeavour