Spadework - the Becher Chase....

Last Updated: 05.12.2018

Wednesday, 5th December 2018

Spadework – the Becher Chase….

The stats don’t make for a reliable standalone selection method – but they are useful nevertheless....

They can alert us to the type of horses that do or don’t have a record of going well in a specific race. And that’s good information to factor into your deliberations....

Take Saturday’s G3 Becher Chase at Aintree, for example....

The raceisn’t exactly a mine of strong stats, but the pointers contained in this historic record do provide a decent enough contextual framework within which to consider individual horses….

  • Previous experience of the fences is significant....

Run over the Grand National fences this 3m2f test serves primarily as a standalone valuable handicap (there’s a prize fund of £150k up for grabs – winning connections bank £84k).

But the race also serves as something of a prep-contest for the Grand National in April. It gives connections an opportunity to give their horses some experience of those unique Aintree obstacles at a trip....

In truth, the race hasn’t served as a particularly strong guide to the Grand National in recent times....

Since 1998 only two winners of the Becher have gone on to win the big one later in the same season – Amberleigh House in 01/02 and Silver Birch in 04/05….

Winning over the fences at 3m2f on December ground is not quite the same thing as winning over them at 4m4f on spring ground....

But you can rest assured that a good proportion of Saturday’s field will be turning out with the April race representing a long-term target....

One of the conundrums for punters in this race is figuring out which horses are turning out to win and which are turning out for a looksee as their priority. That is something that must be established on a case-by-case basis – and in some instances, there is no way of knowing for sure....

But if you’re looking for horses on Saturday who might not just be turning up for a test-run over the fences, you might want to focus your initial attention on those horses who have already got experience of the giant obstacles....

Fifteen of the last 21 Becher Chase winners had already run over the Grand National fences – be it in the Grand National itself, the Topham, a previous renewal of the Becher or the Grand Sefton....

Crowd Report....

One thing you will never catch us doing on ATC is backing favourites….

Our default approach is to ALWAYS take the favourites on. Without exception. And for good reason. You can’t make money long-term by backing favourites….

Our stance is based on solid evidence provided by more than 150,000 races run in Britain across the last two decades – and the numbers don’t tell lies…. 

We don’t envisage that long-term trend changing direction. But we keep an eye on it – on a weekly basis.

And, starting this week, we’ll be reporting the latest performance figures produced by outright favourites (and the punters who back them) in Crowd Report on the ATC website….

We update every Monday morning – reporting the data for the previous 7-day period. Our first Crowd Report is online now….

Crowd Report won’t help you find winners. But there comes a point when the tide turns and backing favourites IS the right way to play the game, you’ll be the first to know….

  • Maturity generally trumps youth....

The historic statistical record tells us that age is something we should bear in mind when we come to make our selections. The race is limited to horses aged 6yo and older. And younger horses don’t find the race a particularly easy assignment….

Jumping the big fences takes more effort and takes more out of a horse than leaping over more conventional obstacles. And the results of years-gone-by indicate that the mature horses have the edge….

Thirteen of the last 18 winners of the race were 9 or older. Only two horses younger than 8 have managed to win since 2000 – Silver Birch in 2004 and David Pipe’s Vieux Lion Rouge in 2016....

There are still horses younger than 8 entered for Saturday’s renewal. I’m not saying that one of those can’t win. The stats are there to be trumped….

But when considering prices and selections, we should be aware that younger horses have previously found it hard to win and place….

The last 48 horses to go to post aged 7 or younger produced those two winners and just 6 additional places – one of the winners and one of the placers were saddled by Paul Nicholls whilst another 3 of the placers ran out of Peter Bowen’s yard….

  • Yards with a track record....

Another productive initial lie of inquiry might be to focus on the yards with a record of targeting the race effectively over the last couple of decades. Some such yards have entries again this year….

Paul Nicholls is serious about producing competitive horses for the race – with his last 23 representatives posting 3 wins and 5 places....

This morning Present Man and Warriors Tale look likely to be his representatives on Saturday….

The former – having won a second Badger Ales Trophy at Wincanton last month – has already had the grand national nominated as his target. Catch up on what we had to say at the time here….

Trevor Hemmings, serial Grand National sharpshooter, bought Warriors Tale ahead of last season’s edition – and you can rely on that being his long-term target this season too….

Nigel Twiston-Davies has won the race 5 times in total – the first of those wins coming all the way back in 1993.  This century, his 16 participants have produced 3 winners and a place….

Blaklion – last season’s winner of the race – flies the flag again for the yard this year. He could be joined by the yard’s new-recruit Go Conquer, along with Ballyoptic and young Callet Mad….

  • Fitness is an advantage....

In a race where stamina is a factor, it stands to reason that race-fit and match-sharp horses should be at an advantage – and the stats bear that idea out….

Thirteen of the last 18 winners and 35 of the last 45 horses to make the frame in the race had already been seen on the track during the current season….

And in an ideal world you want your horse to have shown a bit of something last time out. Eleven of the last 12 winners had made the first 5 on their previous appearance….

2016 winner Vieux Lion Rouge is the exception, but he’d finished 7th in the Grand National on his previous run – which was a none-too-shabby effort....

  • One more point....

There is one more thing you might want to bear in mind when you come to look at the race....

We’ve seen some commendable weight-carrying performance in the Becher this century….

Young Kenny carried 12-00 to victory in 2000. Vic Venturi carried 11-12 in 2009. Eurotrek and Mr Pointment carried 11-07 and 11-05 when winning in 2006 and 2007. Blaklion had 11-06 on his back when winning the race last year….

But those big Aintree fences take some jumping and they take a lot out of a horse. The runners burdened with the least lead appear to find it easier than those humping the bigger weights....

Thirteen of the last 18 winners carried less than 11-00 to victory....

  • The last word….

Of course, the jockeys have a say in things too. If you missed yesterday’s column, I highlighted three riders with the strongest records in races run over the Grand National fences you can catch up here….

That’s all from me for today.

I’ll be back with more tomorrow....

Until then. Stay tuned.

Nick Pullen

Against the Crowd