10.11.08 - RACING AT AINTREE
The totesport.com Becher Chase - a champion's race
The inaugural running in 1992 of the totesport.com Becher Chase over the Grand National fences went to the Sue Smith-trained Kildimo and the Yorkshire trainer gained a second success a decade later when Ardent Scout prevailed under an excellent ride from Dominic Elsworth to get the better of 2004 John Smith’s Grand National hero Amberleigh House by 24 lengths.
Amberleigh House himself won this prestigious handicap chase in 2001 when driven out by Warren Marston to prevail by two lengths from Smarty. The 2004 Grand National saw previous winners of the Becher Chase fill the first two places as Clan Royal was runner-up to Amberleigh House after being successful in this event by a short-head from that same rival in 2003.
Another Grand National winner to capture the totesport.com Becher Chase was Earth Summit. Seven months after he had won the world’s most famous chase in 1998, Earth Summit returned to Aintree and defeated the previous year’s Becher Chase winner Samlee by 16 lengths. In addition to saddling Earth Summit, trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies has also won the Becher Chase on two other occasions, courtesy of Indian Tonic in 1993 and Young Hustler two years later. Indian Tonic scored unchallenged by six lengths from Southern Minstrel, while Young Hustler was successful by the same margin from Sir Peter Lely.
Young Kenny was cheered home in 2000 as the market leader, beating subsequent winner Ardent Scout by half a length for popular Yorkshire-based trainer Peter Beaumont. The Ardross gelding fell on his only attempt at the John Smith’s Grand National, but he did win the Scottish version in 1999.
Into The Red is the only dual winner of the totesport.com Becher Chase so far. He was victorious for trainer John White in 1994, when coming home unchallenged by 15 lengths from Feathered Gale and then, two years later, when under the care of Mary Reveley, he ran on well for Tony Dobbin to score by three and a half lengths and deny 1995 victor Young Hustler successive wins.
Tony Dobbin was on the scoresheet again three years later aboard the Nicky Richards-trained Feels Like Gold. The 11-year-old galloped clear of his opponents and eventually won eased down, with Him Of Praise taking the runner-up spot, 11 lengths adrift.
The Paul Nicholls-trained Silver Birch justified favouritism in the 2004 totesport.com Becher Chase under Ruby Walsh to master Just In Debt by a length in a thrilling renewal. He also captured the Welsh National in 2004 and, after being sold out of Nicholls’ stable for just 20,000 guineas, made one of the greatest comebacks to win the 2007 John Smith’s Grand National for Irish trainer Gordon Elliott.
Ned Mitchell’s Garvivonnian became the first Irish-trained winner of the totesport.com Becher Chase when taking the contest in November, 2005, at the initial running at the Northwest Racing Masters weekend. He held on in a thrilling finish from the fast-finishing Nicholls-trained Le Duc by three quarters of a length, with Just In Debt a neck away in third.
Nicholls claimed his second win in the totesport.com Becher Chase in November, 2006 with the talented Eurotrek, who defied top-weight to defeat Bewleys Berry and 19 others in decisive fashion under Liam Heard, though there was drama after the last when it momentarily looked as if the winning jockey was going to take the wrong course.
The champion trainer was back for more in 2007 when he equalled Nigel Twiston-Davies’ record of three totesport.com Becher Chase victories by saddling Mr Pointment. The eight-year-old excelled over the Grand National obstacles, despite being inexperienced over fences, beating the previous year’s runner-up Bewleys Berry by a length.
The totesport.com Becher Chase receives plenty of runners, many of whom are having their first start over the Grand National fences and the race is increasingly seen as one of the best John Smith’s Grand National trials, with three winners also being successful in the world’s greatest chase.
Three favourites have prevailed - Young Hustler (1995), Young Kenny (2000) and Silver Birch (2004) - but there have also been three shock results - Amberleigh House was a 33/1 chance in 2001, while Garvivonnian (33/1 - 2005) and Eurotrek (25/1 -2006) also caused upsets.