Early December brings Aintree’s first major meeting of the National Hunt season with their Becher Chase Raceday.
A mix of hurdle and chase races will be run over Aintree’s Mildmay course, including the Grade 2 Many Clouds Chase, named in honour of the 2015 Grand National winner.
The raceday’s two big handicaps, the Becher Chase and the Grand Sefton Chase, are contested over the famous Grand National course and fences.
Becher Chase Day Races
|11:45||William Hill Extra Place Races Daily Novices’ Hurdle||Class 3||2m1f|
|12:20||Follow @willhillracing On Twitter Handicap Chase||Class 3||2m4f|
|12:55||William Hill Play Responsibly Handicap Hurdle||Class 2||2m4f|
|1:30||William Hill Becher Handicap Chase||Grade 3||3m2f|
|2:05||williamhill.com Fillies’ Juvenile Hurdle||Listed||2m1f|
|2:40||William Hill Many Clouds Chase||Grade 2||3m1f|
|3:15||William Hill Grand Sefton Handicap Chase||Class 2||2m5f|
A Complete History of the Becher Chase
Established in 1992, the Becher Chase is actually rather new compared to many other of Britain’s most prestigious handicap events. In its relatively short history though, it has produced some absolutely thrilling contests over the Grand National fences. As you may be aware, one of these famous fences is the notorious Becher’s Brook.
Not satisfied with just having a fence to pay tribute to Martin Becher, Aintree now has a race named after him too. The reason the Merseyside course remains so fond of the jockey is down to a wholly unfortunate ride during the first ever Grand National. At the first major obstacle, his horse, Conrad, dug his heels in resulting in Becher flying of the saddle and into the filthy brook. To avoid injury, Becher waited in the water until all the horses had cleared the obstacle before remounting his nag-soaking wet. If that was not bad enough, a luckless Becher later fell off the mount at another brook further down the course.
1992 – Aintree rolls out new fixture
For the 20 years prior to 1992, the Grand National meeting stood as Aintree’s sole racing fixture. This situation finally changed when organisers penned in a fresh meeting, scheduled for November 1992. The highlight race of the new and relatively low-key fixture was the Becher Chase, initially a long distance 3m 3f handicap featuring 22 fences.
1996 – Into The Red double
The Becher Chase did not have to wait long for its first two-time winner. Just four years after its inception, Into The Red scooped a second win in the race having initially triumphed in 1994. Buoyed by this second win, John White gave his horse a crack in the Grand National five months later where he mustered a respectable fifth.
1998 – Earth Summit’s final victory
Earth Summit was very much a big name by the time he lined-up for the 1998 renewal of the Becher Chase. Earlier in the year, he had made history by becoming the first (and at the time of writing only) horse to win the Aintree Grand National as well as the Scottish and Welsh equivalents. He showed off his long-distance class yet again by winning this contest by an impressive 16 lengths.
It all went rather downhill for the gelding soon after this point though. A solid second followed Haydock but in the five races after this, he looked a completely different horse, never remotely close to a win.
2001 – Amberleigh House shines on Aintree return
Amberleigh House’s first trip to Aintree was one to forget. The utterly unfancied 150/1 chance was brought down just eight fences into the 2001 Grand National, dashing any hopes of a shocking outcome. His return later in the year proved far more productive though as he claimed a 33/1 Becher Chase win. This would not be his only taste of Aintree success either as he went on to claim glory in the 2004 Grand National.
2004 – Silver Birch makes a name for himself
Many racing fans will recognise the name Silver Birch. The Paul Nicholls-trained horse won the Welsh National in 2004 and the Aintree Grand National three years later. The Becher Chase however marked his first major victory and it was a narrow one too with the then seven year old winning by just a length.
Silver Birch is the last Becher Chase champion that has later gone on to win the Grand National. This is despite the Becher serving as an early and well-recognised trial race for the hugely popular showpiece contest. Black Apalachi has since come the closest but the 2008 Becher winner had to settle for the runners-up spot in the 2010 National.
2005 – A year for the dark horses
Anyone who called this renewal of the Becher Chase ended up handsomely rewarded. Not only was first past the line, Garvivonnian, a 33/1 shot but two 25/1 outsiders occupied second and third place. It was an exceptionally poor day for horses at the top of the betting with the three favourites all failing to finish the race.
2006 – Distance tweaked
In 2006, the Becher Chase was reduced in length by around a furlong, moving from 3m 3f to 3m 1f 188y. The reduction in length also meant there was one fewer Grand National fence to jump for the horses involved.
2012 – Hello Bud makes it two
Two years after his initial success in this race, Hello Bud won the Becher Chase for a second time on what was his last ever competitive outing. At the ripe old age of 14, it is extremely unlikely that we will see an older horse triumph in this race for quite some time.
2013 – Becher handed Graded status
It was in 2013 that the Becher Chase was upgraded from a Listed contest to a Grade 3 race. Chance Du Roy claimed victory the first time the race feature with its upgraded classification. The bump in class also meant a bump in prize money with Chance Du Roy pocketing his connections £15,000 more than the previous winner.
2014 – Amateurs take control
A total of 25 jockeys mounted up to face this edition of the Becher Chase. Of them, 23 were professionals and just two were still amateurs. In a surprising twist though, it was the far more inexperienced amateurs that stole the show at Aintree.
As they approached the finishing post, it was a two horse race with Sam Waley-Cohen battling it out with William Biddick. The former emerged victorious, guiding 25/1 outsider Oscar Time to a surprise victory. In doing so, Waley-Cohen further bolstered his reputation as something of a Grand National fence specialist with that his fifth win over the challenging obstacles.
2017 – Nigel Twiston-Davies does it again
A rather comfortable afternoon for Blaklion handed Nigel Twiston-Davies his sixth Becher Chase win. At the time, no other trainer had mustered more than three wins, giving the Naunton-based trainer a handsome lead on top of the trainer rankings for this race.
2019 – First successful title defence
As we have included in this written history of the Becher Chase, both Into The Red and Hello Bud won this race on two separate occasions. What neither of them did however was successfully win the long-distance contest in consecutive renewals. The first horse to manage this feat was Robert Walford’s Walk In The Mill who won in no-nonsense fashion in 2018 and again in 2019.