Weights are released today for the £145,000 G3 Randox Health Becher Chase (60 entries) and the £70,000 188bet.co.uk Grand Sefton Handicap Chase (37 entries), both staged over Aintree’s famous Grand National fences on Becher Chase Day, Saturday, December 9.
The 2016 Grand National runner-up The Last Samuri (Kim Bailey) tops the weights on 11st 12lb for the Randox Health Becher Chase, run over three and a quarter miles. The nine-year-old finished third behind Vieux Lion Rouge (David Pipe, 11st 5lb) and Highland Lodge (Jimmy Moffatt, 10st 5lb) in this contest 12 months ago.
The Last Samuri did not replicate that form in this year’s Randox Health Grand National, coming home 16th, but made an encouraging return to action when a close second to Bags Groove in a handicap hurdle over two miles and five furlongs at Kempton Park on November 13.
Trainer Kim Bailey said: “The Last Samuri is in good form and on course for the Randox Health Becher Chase.
“It was a good run at Kempton and, provided he is in the same sort of form as he is now in two weeks’ time, he should have a very good chance.
“We will get the Becher Chase out the way first before deciding where we go for the rest of the season.”
Randox Health Grand National fourth Blaklion, who has been the favourite for the Randox Health Becher Chase since the entries were revealed last week, has been allotted 11st 6lb. His trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies, a five-time winner of the race, is also responsible for last year’s Hennessy Gold Cup third Double Ross (11st 1lb).
Other entries to have run well in the 2017 Randox Health Grand National include Gas Line Boy (fifth, Ian Williams, 10st 9lb), who fell when travelling well in a handicap chase over the Mildmay Course last month, and Regal Encore (eighth, Anthony Honeyball, 11st 3lb).
In-form chasers Go Conquer (Jonjo O’Neill) and Present Man (Paul Nicholls) have been handed 11st 4lb and 11st 3lb respectively. Go Conquer was the impressive winner of the G3 Sodexo Gold Cup at Ascot on November 4, while Present Man held on gamely to land the Listed Badger Ales Trophy at Wincanton the following weekend.
Present Man’s trainer Paul Nicholls has four entries in total, including dual Scottish Grand National victor Vicente (11st 4lb) who was a close second on his comeback at Cheltenham last weekend.
Neil Mulholland has two interesting contenders in The Young Master (10st 12lb) and Doing Fine (10st 4lb).
Last week’s G2 Clonmel Oil Chase victor Alpha Des Obeaux (Mouse Morris IRE, 11st 7lb) has the most weight of the 10 Irish-trained entries. Stablemate Rogue Angel, victorious in the 2016 Irish Grand National, has been allotted 10st 2lb.
Gordon Elliott’s pair Mala Beach and Ucello Conti have been given 11st 2lb and 10st 13lb respectively, while 2014 Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Lord Windermere (Jim Culloty), seventh in last season’s Randox Health Grand National, will carry at least 10st 11lb.
Here is a video link for some of the leading contenders for the Randox Health Becher Chase: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7u-0Wgalo0
Left to right: Blaklion, Vieux Lion Rouge & Highland Lodge in the 2016 Becher Chase
O O Seven top-weight in 188bet.co.uk Grand Sefton Handicap Chase
Second season chaser O O Seven (Nicky Henderson, 11st 12lb) heads the weights for the other race over the Grand National fences on December 9, the £70,000 188bet.co.uk Grand Sefton Handicap Chase over two miles and five furlongs.
Paul Nicholls, successful in two of the last four renewals, has five of the 37 entries to choose from, headed by the 2016 winner As De Mee (11st 9lb) who will race from a 12lb higher mark this time around.
The three Irish-trained entries include G1 scorer Clarcam (Gordon Elliott, 11st 11lb) and French import Polidam (Willie Mullins, 10st 12lb).
In a new initiative for Becher Chase Day, British Horseracing Authority Jockey Coach and former jockey Brian Harding will walk the Grand National course with jockeys before racing.
This is a continuation of what was done on each day of the Randox Health Grand National Festival in April.
The walk before racing is voluntary, but has had excellent feedback from jockeys who have participated.
Tickets and hospitality for Becher Chase Day are available to purchase here.
If you are 18-24, you can go FREE to this fixture by signing up and purchasing a RacePass ticket online at www.racepass18to24.co.uk.