Ballabriggs back for Becher

  • Last Updated: December 6 2012, 16:28 GMT

Former Grand National winner Ballabriggs kicks off his season with another start over the famous Aintree fences against 15 rivals for Saturday's Betfred Becher Handicap Chase.

Ballabriggs returns to the scene of his finest hour

Donald McCain's fine stayer ran just twice last term, finishing sixth when attempting to defend his National title, and must concede weight all round over the shorter trip of three and a quarter miles.

He will take on several horses with expert form over the birch, as the past two winners of the race - West End Rocker and Hello Bud - are in the line-up.

McCain fields one more horse in the shape of the experienced Fabalu.

Others in the field to have also run in Nationals are this year's fifth-placed In Compliance, as well as Midnight Haze, Big Fella Thanks and Swing Bill.

The 2011 bet365 Gold Cup hero Poker De Sivola continues his comeback for Ferdy Murphy, while Paul Nicholls has just one runner in Join Together, who is stepping out of novice company for the first time.

The most notable defection was Jonjo O'Neill's Alfie Sherrin, who won at the Cheltenham Festival and finished third in the Irish National.

He has several other high-profile entries at Christmas.

Martin Keighley has high hopes for Any Currency, whose form seems to have been improved by a pre-season surgical procedure to aid his breathing

"Any Currency has been in really good form since his run at Cheltenham," said the trainer.

"He had a wind operation over the summer which seems to have really helped him because he used to hit flat spots in his races. He was impressive when he won the Desert Orchid at Wincanton and then was a good fourth at Cheltenham in a competitive race.

"He missed getting into the John Smith's Grand National by one last year and it will be good to see him over those fences as it will be a real test in the ground and I can see him running a big race.

"The testing conditions will be fine for him as he stays so well and Aidan Coleman gets on really well with him, so he must go there with a big chance. He has his own way of jumping but I think that will really suit him around Aintree.

"He has an entry at Sandown, which is probably the easier option, but I am very keen to see him over those Grand National fences and I'm looking forward to it."

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