Few things whet the appetite of jumps racing fans more than the prospect of a field of talented chasers tacking the famous fences of the Aintree Grand National Course. The main event in April, of course, takes centre stage, but that isn’t the only time the likes of The Chair, Becher’s Brook, and Valentines grab the spotlight. The Grand Sefton Steeplechase kicks things off in November, and just one month later, we get another sighting of the most formidable obstacles in the game as the runners and riders tackle the Becher Chase.
At 3m2f, the trip is a little longer than that of the Grand Sefton, without quite approaching the marathon levels of the Grand National itself. Nevertheless, stamina and jumping ability remain the key prerequisites for success in one of the big highlights of the pre-Christmas racing period.
Since making its debut in 1992, only three winners have subsequently gone on to Grand National glory, namely Earth Summit (1998), Amberleigh House (2001) and Silver Birch (2004), but with £150,000 in total prize money up for grabs, this remains a much-coveted prize in its own right. Here, we look back at the 23 editions held between 2000 and 2022 in an effort to unearth a trend or two, which may assist in identifying the winner.
Becher Chase: Age Trends
The Becher Chase is open to chasers aged 6 and older, but, as of 2022, is yet to be won by a runner younger than 7. 19 of the 23 editions between 2000 and 2022 (82.61%) fell to a 7-10-year-old, with 9-year-olds boasting the best record, with almost double the number of wins as the next best age group. However, recent results suggest we shouldn’t entirely discount the veterans in the line-up – the finest example coming in 2012 when 14-year-old Hello Bud toughed it out best of all to become the oldest winner in the history of the race.
Becher Chase: Weight Trends
Ahead of the 2023 edition, the minimum and maximum weights are set at 10st2lb and 12st, respectively – meaning the bottom four winners on the above chart would race from out of the weights if lining up in 2023. Even accounting for that, those with a lighter weight enjoy an advantage in this event – 17 of 23 winners (73.91%) having carried 11st or less on the day.
The most impressive modern weight-carrying display came in 2000 when Young Kenny defied a welter burden of 12st. However, his success, and that of Vic Venturi under 11st12lb in 2009, fly in the face of the overall trend.
Becher Chase: Rating of Winner
Much like its big brother of the Grand National, the Becher Chase has steadily increased in quality over the years – indicated by a trend line which has climbed more than 10lbs from its starting value. It has been far from a smooth ascent, with future Grand National champ Amberleigh House responsible for the lowest rating in 2001, and the admirably tough Blaklion the highest in 2017. The average rating of the winner over this 2000-2022 period sits at 136.5.
Becher Chase: Finishing Position Last Time Out
Arriving at a big race on the back of a solid performance can’t be taken as a negative, but a recent win or placed effort has not been essential for success here. Overall, the number of last-time-out winners is exceeded by those pulled up or unseating on their most recent outing. The 2000-2022 period saw a roughly 50-50 split between winners who were at least placed last time out and those who were unplaced or failed to complete the course. Interestingly, no winners had fallen on their most recent appearance. If all other factors suggest a runner boasts a solid chance, we shouldn’t place too much weight on their most recent performance.
Fresh Is Best
Given the demands of the race, it makes sense that horses who have not overly exerted themselves in the early stages of the season may be favoured. The stats strongly support this theory, with 20 of the 23 (86.96%) winners making only their first or second start of the season. A single tune-up run appears to be the best approach to the race, but any more than that may be too much.
Becher Chase: Fate of the Favourite
Despite often appearing to be a difficult puzzle to unravel, the market leader boasts a strong recent record. A strike rate of six winning favourites from 23 editions is a solid return for what is usually a big field affair – and good enough to hand jolly backers a profit of £10.50 to £1 level stakes.
Overall, 11 winners have returned a single-figure SP, a further six were priced between 10/1 and 16/1, whilst the remainder were priced at odds of 20/1 or greater. The biggest shocks came courtesy of 33/1 victors Amberleigh House (2001) and Garvivonnian (2005).
Becher Chase: Other Stats
- In common with many staying chase events, proven stamina has been a significant pointer to success, with 19 of the 23 winners having previously won over at least 3m.
- Any previous winner of the race is worth a second look in the betting, with Hello Bud (2010, 2012), Vieux Lion Rouge (2016, 2020), and Walk In The Mill (2018, 2019) all showing that they have what it takes on more than one occasion.
- Nigel-Twiston Davies and Paul Nicholls top the 21st century trainer’s table with three wins apiece, followed by David Pipe, Dessie Hughes, and Robert Walford, who each have two.
- When looking at the sires, Jurado, Sabiango, and Walk In The Park have two wins each courtesy of Hello Bud, Vieux Lion Rouge, and Walk In The Mill. Ardross and Flemensfirth have each sired two different winners, but the best record belongs to Old Vic, whose progeny won three successive editions between 2007 and 2009, each time through a different horse.