Green Flag Favourite For Becher Handicap
Becher Handicap Chase
The Grand National fences make their first appearance of the season at Aintree on Saturday where the competitive Grade 3 Becher Handicap Chase takes place over 3m2f (1.30).
With so many runners looking to grab the £78k first prize, the following trends could help whittle the field down to a short-list.
Of the last 10 Becher Chase winners…
10 had a 16-day or longer rest
9 were officially rated 130-148
9 had yet to win a Class 2 chase
P Nicholls won it three times, N Twiston-Davies twice
Those who arrived via Ascot, Aintree ot Wincanton last time were 0-45
The late Dessie Hughes won this prize twice in 2008 and 2009, and Jim Dreaper will be hoping to follow suit with his 7yo, Goonyella (10/1), who has form in staying chases, including when seventh in the Irish National in April. He last won a 3m6f handicap 20 months ago, but has an abundance of stamina and looks to have been aimed at this following a recent spin over hurdles.
Followers of Gordon Elliott’s Troytown Chase winner, Balbriggan (9/1), may be a touch concerned to note that each of the last 10 Becher winners had been rested for at least 16 days prior to Aintree’s test, unlike Balbriggan, who tasted glory at Navan just 13 days ago (3m, soft). A winner of four of his last five races, he boasts a tidy progressive profile and is entitle to go well if recovered from that latest win.
In-Form Philip Hobbs
Philip Hobbs’, Chance Du Roy (9/1), on the other hand arrives fresh having last been seen finishing sixth in the Grand National, beaten 9l (4m4f, good to soft). Triumphant in this very race 12 months ago, this 10yo is only 6lb higher on Saturday and certainly knows how to jump these specialist fences.
Punters looking for good recent form need not look any further than Harry Fry’s, Mendip Express (9/2), who back in January won a decent handicap at Cheltenham (3m2f, soft), prior to being pulled up in the Scottish National. He showed he was back to form when landing a minor hurdle last month, which will have teed-him up nicely for this without damaging his handicap mark.
Lucinda Russell’s, Green Flag (10/1), also ran in the Scottish National when beaten 26l into sixth, having previously stayed on into fourth in a Grade 3 handicap at the Cheltenham Festival (3m, good to soft).
Not overly exposed in handicaps, this 7yo should find Saturday’s conditions ideal.
But what of that man, Paul Nicholls, who has started the season well and has won this race three times since 2004? Well, he runs Just A Par (12/1), who was a Grade 2 novice winner last November (3m, good to soft), and blew the cobwebs away when fifth (beaten 17l) in the Badger Ales at Wincanton last month. He handles Aintree (runner-up in a Grade 1 hurdle here) and is respected.
Plenty to choose from in an open contest, but Green Flag has the look of one laid out for this race, and he has given the impression in the past that this kind of trip is what may bring out the best in him. The more rain the better.