Take David Pipe’s Swing Bill to spring a surprise in Becher Chase
The Becher Chase at Aintree has attracted a field of 24 runners and looks one of the most competitive renewals for many a season.
It is the first time since April that the Grand National fences have been jumped and it is a race which has been dominated in recent years by Nigel Twiston-Davies who has won the contest five times.
The Gloucestershire-based handler teed-up Hello Bud to win in 2010 but the horse’s effort – when winning the race as a 14-year-old in 2012 – was an even better training performance.
Nigel Twiston-Davies won this race in 2010 and 2012
This year Twiston-Davies relies on the comparative youngster Baby Run.
The 13-year-old dramatically got rid of young jockey William Twiston-Davies at the final fence in the Foxhunters’ at Cheltenham in 2011.
However he then won over these fences less than a month later so he has experience on his side.
Against him though is the fact that he hasn’t run for 959 days although his trainer is a master at getting horses fit after long absences.
The aforementioned 2012 renewal won by Hello Bud helps provide a crucial form line for Saturday’s race.
Paul Nicholls has trained three winners of the Becher Chase
Paul Nicholls’ Join Together was second on that occasion and stormed home in the mud, only losing by half a length.
He is 2lb lower in the handicap 12 months on but it is off-putting that connections reach for a pair of blinkers after a series of very lacklustre runs over the last year.
However Nicholls knows exactly the type of horse needed to win this race, having lifted the prize with three different horses between 2004 and 2007.
The third home a year ago was Big Fella Thanks who didn’t enjoy his last visit to Aintree as he unseated his rider in the Grand National.
The Tom George-trained runner is 6lb higher in the handicap today and the more interesting contender is the fourth-home Swing Bill.
Swing Bill was fourth in this race 12 months ago
David Pipe’s grey likes good ground and he looks well-handicapped off a mark of 140.
Last seen when finishing sixth in the Grand National, the 12-year-old has a record of 4-1-1-17-1-4 when returning from longer than 60 days off the track.
He makes his seasonal reappearance today and rates a good each-way bet.
As does Gullible Gordon who ran a fine race to be sixth in this race 12 months ago.
Peter Bowen’s 10-year-old loves good ground so he did remarkably well to finish as close as he did a year ago on heavy going.
Favourite On His Own fell in last season’s Grand National
He really enjoys jumping these unique fences and as well as last-year’s sixth-placed finish, he has also been fifth in the Topham Chase.
Bowen used to farm the Topham with Always Waining so he knows exactly the type of horse needed to win races over the Grand National fences.
Willie Mullins’ On His Own has been the favourite for the race since the market was formed, however he fell in the Grand National in April.
Although he will be fit after a recent run over hurdles, he looks short enough with Paul Townend a less experienced pilot over these fences than the horse’s regular jockey Ruby Walsh.