1.35 Aintree – Becher Chase Preview (3m 1f)
Fergal O’Brien’s Alvarado has been the subject of a week-long gamble, probably down to O’Brien’s’ good form and Alvarado’s love for the National fences. The eleven-year-old finished last season with a second to Vicente in the Scottish Grand National off the same rating as he’s been allotted in the Becher. He was sixth to Viconte Du Noyer first time up this season but meets that rival on ten pounds better terms for a seven and three quarter length beating which should level up the playing field somewhat.
The Tizzard Team will be hoping to continue their run of big-race successes this weekend with Viconte Du Noyer. What a treble it would be if their seven-year-old runner could take this race after their yard-stalwart Cue Card won the Betfair Chase and young stayer, Native River, took the Hennessy Gold Cup. Formerly trained by Henry De Bromhead, Viconte Du Noyer ran a great race last time out to take a competitive, seventeen runner, BetVictor Gold Cup at Cheltenham three weeks ago. Aidan Coleman takes the mount and has 4 wins from 24 rides for Colin Tizzard this season, plus a 54% place strike rate with him.
Top weight this year goes to Kim Bailey’s The Last Samuri with the in-form Brian Hughes is booked to ride. Three of the last nineteen winners have carried 11st 12lbs or more to victory so punters should not feel unduly worried by the task at hand. The Last Samuri came to Aintree last April for a Grand National entry on the back of two wins at Kempton and Doncaster. He finished second in that race, only going down narrowly and was then put away for a summer break. His seasonal reappearance was at Down Royal when he finished last of the five finishers but he was never going to be over exerted in that race. A big run is expected on Saturday.
In the 2015 renewal, Highland Lodge (Jimmy Moffatt/Henry Brooke) came home two and a quarter lengths in front of Dare To Endeavour (Eric McNamara/Harry Skelton), who re-opposes on Saturday. Highland Lodge made one more appearance last season after his Becher Chase success when pulling up in the Scottish Grand National at Ayr in April. For a ten-year-old Highland Lodge is lightly raced with just eighteen chase runs to his name. Trainer Jimmy Moffatt should have him fit enough to do himself justice again after a 231 day break.
Gordon Elliott’s Ucello Conti has been well supported in the market with the stable currently in red hot form. He had a pipe opener over hurdles three weeks ago when last of seven but that should have blown away any cobwebs. His last run over fences was a respectable sixth behind Rule The World in the Grand National back in April, so we know he can handle these fences which many frankly can’t. That has to be a positive.
Vieux Lion Rouge is held in high regard at the David Pipe stable and has won three of his seven starts over fences. Last time out he found the Grand National all a bit too much for him and failed to see the trip out. However at the young age of seven he would have learned a lot about these fences and is bound to have been schooled over something similar at home. Owners Caroline Tisdall and John Gent are no strangers to the Aintree winners’ enclosure having scored a success at the last fixture at the course.
The Young Master is always on the premises in top staying chases and must come here with a great chance. Four wins from ten starts in the chasing sphere is an impressive strike rate and one of those wins included a short head victory over Just A Par at Sandown last time out in the Bet365 Gold Cup. No jockey, amateur or professional, has a better record round Aintree than Sam Waley-Cohen and that will count for bucketloads in a race of this nature on Saturday. Given that Neil Mulholland had Carole’s Destrier primed to run well in the Hennessy first time up last weekend you would expect The Young Master to have the same degree of fitness. This race has been a summer long target for all concerned, including both Waley-Cohen’s.
Mouse Morris, trainer of 2016 Grand National winner Rule The World is hoping Rogue Angel will be his 2017 National representative following the retirement of his stable star. His form is hardly inspiring, but he has had a wind operation since last being seen and according to Morris this week, is said to be working like a different horse now at home. Whether we will see the eight-year-old running to his full potential this weekend remains to be seen but he certainly needs to be watched on the radar.
Ziga Boy was an impressive winner of the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster last year jumping his rivals into submission as they fell away from the challenge one by one. On more than one occasion Alan King has indicated that he wants to try Ziga Boy in the Becher Chase to ascertain whether he is a Grand National type or not. Alan King is not the kind of trainer to leave anything to chance and you can be confident he will be bringing the seven-year-old here in tip-top condition. Syndicate owners Axom have had plenty of success themselves over the past few weekends and will be hoping top 2016 off with a bold showing here.
Full Aintree fancies:
12.00 Aint- Rosa Damascena (7.2) e/w.
12.30 Aint- Call Me Vic (12.5) e/w.
1.00 Aint- Minotaur (2.26) win.
1.35 Aint- The Young Master (14.0) & Ziga Boy (22.0) e/w.
2.10 Aint- Hunters Roof (7.8) e/w.
2.40 Aint- Many Clouds (3.95) win.
3.15 Aint- Seefood (10.0) & Milgen Bay (32.0) e/w.
Into The Red wining the 1996 renewal.