Two favourites have won The Becher Chase in the last 10 years, but winners at 33/1, 25/1 and 14/1 (twice) in that period are an indication of how competitive it can be (1.30pm Saturday at Aintree).
The race is run over 3m2f of the Grand National course and last year’s winner, Chance Du Roy (10/1), who also finished a respectable sixth in last season’s Grand National, seems an obvious starting point. Trainer Philip Hobbs’ (pictured) ten-year-old returns to action after an absence of 245 days, but won this on his seasonal reappearance last year and much have a decent chance off a 6lb higher mark. The yard has never been in better form.
Balbriggan (11/1) recorded a career-best effort over fences when making all to win the valuable Troytown Handicap Chase at Navan two weeks ago and could go well again, despite a 10lb rise in the weights. He has yet to race over the Grand National fences but this trip on soft going holds no terrors for him and the way he landed a huge gamble at Navan suggested that the result was no surprise to connections. If he continues in a similar vein a handicap mark of 131 may not be beyond him, even in a race as competitive as this.
Green Flag (12/1) also has no experience of the Grand National fences but trainer Lucinda Russell was reportedly delighted by his fourth of six, beaten 34 lengths, behind subsequent Hennessy Gold Cup winner, Many Clouds, on his reappearance at Carlisle last month. That performance came over an inadequate 2m4f so, stepped up to 3m2f he could provide a threat to all if taking to these unique fences.
Mendip Express (12/1) won his first three starts over fences last season with a minimum of fuss and proved his well being with an easy 14-length win from The Tourard Man (winner since) in an ordinary novices’ hurdle on his seasonal reappearance at Warwick last month. He also lacks experience of the Grand National fences, and the hustle and bustle of a big-field handicap, but is another to consider in a wide open race.
Of those at longer odds, Oscar Time (25/1) may be entering the twilight of his career, but he finished second to Ballabriggs in the 2011 Grand National and fourth to Auroras Encore in the 2013 renewal. As such a course specialist he deserves a second look.
Oscar Time has been lightly raced in recent seasons, but won two run-of-the-mill hunter chases last May and, although unseating his rider at Cheltenham last time, appears well handicapped on his old form. He typically travels and jumps with enthusiasm, so could belie his generous odds by running well.
Obviously, it’s possible to make a case for many of the 25 runners, but Alfie Spinner (25/1) has run creditably in defeat on both starts this season, has stamina in abundance and can usually be relied upon to run his race.
He hasn’t won for ages, but all his wins have come on soft or heavy going and he may finally be able to take advantage of his slipping and very attractive handicap mark. So, our betting tips advice is to back ALFIE SPINNER each-way at 25/1 with Bet365 or Boylesports.