THE Randox Health Becher Handicap Chase is one of the few races held at Aintree that is run over the same fences as the Grand National. For trainers and connections who are hoping to have a runner in the big race, this is a definite target early in the National Hunt season and 2019 is no different.
This year’s Becher Chase, which is scheduled to be run on Saturday December 7th, has 59 entries, many of whom who are very familiar to Grand National fans. Potential runners include last year’s winner Walk The Mill and 2018 winner Vieux Lion Rouge. But which other potential Grand National 2020 runners can we expect to see in two weeks’ time?
Give Me A Copper
There was a lot of hype around Give Me A Copper last season and a potential National entry was on the cards. But with only four runs over fences at the time, it was almost certain that trainer Paul Nicholls would hold him back for another season.
This time around Give Me A Copper is looking more like a decent prospect and started the season with a win in the Badger Beers Handicap Chase at Wincanton earlier this month. There are a lot of similarities between that race and the Becher including the 21 fences, the larger field and the distance of 3m1f so it’s easy to see why bookmakers have installed Give Me A Copper as joint favorite alongside Burtons Well.
A real favourite going into last season’s Grand National, Vintage Clouds was one of the few grey’s to take part in the race. Owned by Trevor Hemmings and trained by Sue Smith, both of whom have previously won the National, the nine-year-old was on good form having taken second place in the Ultima Handicap Chase at Cheltenham the previous month.
However, luck was not on his side and he took the first fence too well and came down steeply which resulted in a fall. Out of the race almost before it began, connections decided to take him to the Scottish National where he ran a solid race to finish in sixth place.
Undeterred, Sue Smith has confirmed that the Grand National 2020 is now the main aim once again this season. However, he will need to improve enormously on his last performance at Kelso which was lackluster and inconsistent. The Becher Handicap Chase will be a big test but a good run will solidify his National claims.
Trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies is no stranger to the winners enclosure at Aintree having already trained two Grand National winners in Earth Summit and Bindaree. Can he do it again in 2020 with Ballyoptic?
A solid chaser who also has plenty of form over hurdles, Ballyoptic has come back this season in winning form. Wins at Chepstow and The Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby have bolstered his chances. Both times jockey Sam Twiston-Davies was on board so clearly it’s a successful partnership.
However Ballyoptic will need to overcome last season’s poor show at Aintree when he fell in both the Becher Chase and the Grand National which was won for the second time by Tiger Roll.
Vieux Lion Rouge
It would be almost sacrilege to mention Aintree, the Becher Chase and the Grand National and not include the stalwart that is Vieux Lion Rouge. When it comes to experience over these fences, the old red lion is the master.
The David Pipe trained ten-year-old has run at Aintree seven times, including four Grand Nationals and three Bechers, winning in 2016 and finishing second in 2018. He has never fallen there or unseated his rider and while unlucky to not win more, is as consistent as it gets.
His experience, weight and age will stand him in good stead on December 7th and should be enough to see off most of the competition. However, a fifth Grand National in April 2020 is looking unlikely so we may just have to be content with seeing him run in the Becher this season.
So there are four lively contenders in the Becher, who if they run a good race, should also be able to put in a sound performance in the Grand National 2020 on April 4th.