Friday, December 08, 2023

The 2023 Becher Chase - a leap of faith required

It's some 45 years since I was first introduced to the thoughts of Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) and his (in)famous wager.

I haven't bothered to unearth the few simplistic notes I scribbled down at that time (with trusted Bic biro) but, from memory - and Wikipedia... 

Pascal argued that in the game of Life there can be no conclusive proof of the existence of God so the individual, obliged to place a wager, might as well bet on God's existence because, if the bet comes in, the rewards in the afterlife will be beyond compare.

Logical reasoning can never prove or disprove the existence of God so it follows the individual has to make 'the leap of faith' in any quest for those otherworldly rewards.

Now, they may have been racing on the Roodee in Pascal's time but I'm pretty certain Paddy Power weren't paying extra places; in a quest for rewards of a more temporal nature, you'll need to make your own leap of faith should you decide to read on.

Fourteen are set to face the starter in the Becher Chase (2.05 Aintree) with the going on the National course currently described as soft, heavy in places, with persistent rain forecast on Saturday morning.

Top weight Coko Beach has jumped these fences twice, finishing eighth in the 2022 Grand National and being pulled up in the same race earlier this year. He may not stay the National trip but three and a quarter miles looks well within his compass.

Gordon Elliott's grey won the Troytown at Navan three weeks ago yet looks to face a stiff task conceding a minimum of 15 pounds to all his rivals; Danny Gilligan's five pound claim reduces the concession to a minimum of 10 pounds.

The last horse to carry more than 11-06 to victory - and the last Irish-trained winner - was Vic Venturi who shouldered 11-12 in 2009. 

Current favourite Ashtown Lad beat Gesskille in last year's renewal and is only two pounds higher this time. 

I tipped Dan Skelton's charge on his comeback run in the Badger Beer at Wincanton four weeks ago and what a major disappointment he was, losing touch and being pulled up in the home straight. 

This has been the long-term target but he'll need to show significant improvement on that run last month.

Percussion, beaten five and a half lengths into third last year, has a decent record over these fences, having finished third and second in the past two renewals of the Grand Sefton; he goes off 130, the same mark as last year.

With just one win from thirteen chase starts The Big Breakaway has never quite lived up to expectations. I fancied this one for the Ultima in March but he was unable to keep tabs on the leaders and eventually pulled up. 

On seasonal debut Joe Tizzard's charge finished fifth behind Blackjack Magic in the Badger Beer at Wincanton. 

To my mind The Big Breakaway's best performance to date was runner-up to The Two Amigos in last year's Welsh National at Chepstow. That was a bit of slog in the mud so tomorrow's underfoot conditions shouldn't be a problem; however on his first try over these unique fences he got no further than the second in the Grand National in April.

Back in December 2021 Highland Hunter, trained by Paul Nicholls at that time, won the London National at Sandown and some three weeks later finished second behind Iwilldoit in the Welsh National.

Following a long break and sporting a first-time tongue-tie, Highland Hunter ran very well on his first run for Fergal O'Brien, staying on to claim second behind Elvis Mail in the Edinburgh Gin Handicap Chase at Kelso. He went steady at the head of affairs that day; you'd expect more pace up front tomorrow.

Celebre D'Allen, eighth in the Topham behind Bill Baxter, showed his current well-being by winning 16 lengths on his first try beyond three miles in a veterans' chase over the Mildmay fences six weeks ago. 

The handicapper raised him ten pounds for that effort; with Micheal Nolan replacing ten pound claimer Elizabeth Gale in the plate, he effectively starts off a mark 20 pounds higher.

Nigel Twiston-Davies has some record, having won this race six times with Indian Tonic (1993); Young Hustler (1995); Earth Summit (1998); Hello Bud (2010); Hello Bud (2012); and Blaklion (2017). 

This year he tries with Undersupervision who finished third behind Hascouer Clermont in an amateur riders' handicap chase at Cheltenham three weeks ago. This one won the 2022 Grimthorpe Chase and was pipped a neck by Moroder in that same Doncaster race last March.

Chambard finished two and a quarter lengths ahead of Undersupervision in that Cheltenham amateur riders' race. Venetia Williams' grey may be 11 years old but on revised terms is weighted to confirm those Cheltenham placings.

Now Where Or When deserves plenty of respect having finished third behind Kemboy and Vanillier in the Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse last February while this evening I've noted bits and pieces for J.J. Slevin's mount Dorking Cock (twelfth in the Foxhunters in the spring) who races from some way out of the handicap. At the time of writing Paddy Power are noticeably shorter than their rivals about this one.

Lounge Lizard is another to run from out of the handicap and a six-year-old has yet to come home in front but Henry Daly wouldn't send his charge there on a wing and a prayer; the booking of Charlie Deutsch catches the eye.  

Sidi Ismael will have plenty of local support - syndicate member Wayne Fitzgerald owns Fitzgerald and Lanigans bars in Liverpool - but the two that are of interest at a bigger price are Moroder and Minella Trump.

I'm a Moroder fan; he has close form with Undersupervision and his second behind Kitty's Light in the bet365 Chase at Sandown reads well; he bled from the nose in the Desert Orchid Silver Cup at Wincanton last time. 

There has been the odd nibble in the market but I'm concerned as the stable haven't had a winner in 19 days - or a runner since November 30th.

Minella Trump raced prominently for a long way in this year's National before weakening four from home. In a stable tour article [RP Weekender 08-12.02.23] written before that run handler Donald McCain said:

"They don't come any more genuine and consistent than this lovely horse who has won nine of his last ten races, which is quite some record.

"During that period his rating has risen from 123 to 149, but judging by his last run he has not stopped improving yet."

Placed in 11 of his 13 chase starts to date, he had a pipe-opener over hurdles at Cheltenham three weeks ago where, if I'm being honest, I would have liked to have seen a little bit more but I think this has been the target after that run in the National eight months ago.

He has won off this mark (145) previously and, on balance, appears to represent the more solid option.

Granted, a leap of faith is required, but Paddy Power stands out offering 28/1.

Minella Trump is the each-way suggestion, 28/1 with Paddy Power who pay five places. 


TW said...


“Lounge Lizard is another to rum from out of the handicap…”

Minella Trump [Going] now a non runner.

Both Moroder and Sidi Ismael look over priced in race where a case can be made for all. With conditions set to ease further before post time I feel Sidi Ismael might better to be able to handle conditions [22/1 5 places 1/5 odds]

Summerville Boy also caught my eye running off an all time low of 140 in a handicap hurdle at Navan [20/1 5 places 1/5 odds]. If I can find a few more I may need Pascal’s triangle to work out my permutations.


GeeDee said...

Thanks for your providing your ratings, TW, and the proof correction.

Summerville Boy - now there's one I haven't thought about a while.

Just before the 2018 Supreme I was asked for an opinion and highlighted his chance. Always had a soft spot for him after that.

Haven't tipped too many winners since, either.

Sandracer said...

Ooh 28/1. My kind of price. Take a look to make sure it's not dived to 10/1 overnight.


GeeDee said...

Chanced Moroder instead, Sandracer, but no 28/1 available, I'm afraid.

GeeDee said...

Lucy Turner became the first female rider to win the Becher Chase; her mount Chambard (18/1) raced prominently, jumped well in the deep ground and went clear up the run-in to win 13 lengths from top weight Coko Beach (6/1).

Percussion finished (6/1) third, Celebre D'Allen (7/1) fourth.

Lounge Lizard (11/1) was the last to complete in fifth, 99 lengths behind the fourth-placed horse.

With Minella Trump a non-runner, I had a small each-way interest in Moroder (22/1) who took well to the fences but couldn't keep tabs on the leaders as the race developed; he was pulled up three out.

GeeDee said...

Nice run from Summerville Boy at Navan, TW.