Side with the Big Fella in Becher
Our Ben Coley provides a horse-by-horse guide to Saturday's Betfred Becher Chase at Aintree.
- Related Content
Winner and sixth from two starts in the Grand National, the latter coming this April off a mark 4lb higher than that which he's asked to race from here. Now 11 and despite winning form on soft ground has reserved winning runs for the latter part of the season. Could need this first start in 238 days and may not be at concert pitch.
Smart seven-year-old who has been prominent in the betting for two Grade One Cheltenham Festival starts only to be pulled up on each occasion. Unexposed having had just 10 outings for Paul Nicholls and dropped 3lb for modest reappearance at Ascot, his first start in handicap company. Capable of better still but questionable whether he's equipped for this sort of test at this stage of his career, although trainer knows what it takes to win it.
BIG FELLA THANKS
Completed all three starts in the Grand National without threatening to win and handicapped to go very close off a mark 1lb lower than when last successful. That was back in March 2010 but he was sent off favourite for his return only to unseat Paddy Brennan when in touch over regulation fences here. Interestingly, he's twice unseated before and on each occasion he went on to win his very next start. First try in this race and one of the leading contenders.
Sole six-year-old in the field and a winner of seven of his 11 starts. Now with David Pipe having initially been in the care of Nicky Henderson, and won first start for the yard at Ayr off a mark of 137 to round off a profitable novice campaign. Modest fifth (one place behind Any Currency) on Cheltenham return but dropped 2lb and remains capable of better, although again one would have to be concerned as to whether he's equipped for this unique test.
Won amateur riders' handicap at Cheltenham on return for second successive season, but raised 8lb as a result. Did place on second start of 2011 off a similar mark but was then pulled up in this race. That said, completed to finish 10th in the Grand National and has been fifth in the Topham, so fences shouldn't be a problem. Ground could be however and likely to find a few too good.
WEST END ROCKER
Brought down on his first attempt over these fences but showed no ill-effects when romping home in this contest 12 months ago before falling at the second in the Grand National. Best form on testing ground and although a career-best is required from a handicapping perspective, he's now just 5lb higher than a year ago following a remote third in the Badger Ales on his return. Tends to need a run so should be spot on and looks the one to beat with conditions ideal.
Admirable 11-year-old who has finished in the frame in 20 of his 30 starts under rules and ran well on his reappearance over regulation fences here. Dropped 2lb for that but remains 11lb above his highest winning mark and this Perth specialist, who has no experience of these fences, is likely to struggle despite having won six from 12 starts under Tom O'Brien.
POKER DE SIVOLA
Winner of the Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown in 2011 under a superb Timmy Murphy ride, but absent since until modest return under apprentice rider at Newcastle. Now runs off the same mark as when last successful so nicely treated if the ability is still there and shouldn't have any issues with the ground, but hard to know what to expect on first try over these obstacles.
Capable but inconsistent gelding who has been tried in a variety of headgear. Impressed on his reappearance at Wincanton before reasonable fourth at Cheltenham under ground conditions that may not be ideal. All wins under rules have come at right-handed tracks (tends to hang right) and on good ground so on balance he's opposable.
Former winner of the Grade One John Durkan whose eight victories have all come on testing ground. Has completed on all three starts over these fences including when fifth in 2012 Grand National at 100/1, but pulled up in the Troytown on his return and yet to win beyond two miles and six furlongs. Trainer in good form but plenty to prove on balance.
Lightly-raced for a 10-year-old and gained some valuable experience of these fences when last of 15 finishers in the Grand National earlier this year. Has climbed the ratings to the tune of 35lb since handicapping but improvement seems to have levelled off and his victories have come in less competitive company, while not totally convinced he wants ground this soft.
Enigmatic front-runner who finished 13th over these fences in the Spring. Looked in need of his reappearance run but left on the same mark, some 9lb higher than his sole handicap success. Stays the trip well and has a superb record on testing ground so could outrun his odds should he get into a rhythm, but prone to the odd mistake and will likely find a few too good.
Always held a reputation as being less than straightforward but put it all together for impressive Wincanton success off 4lb higher two years ago. In contention when falling on next start, his first over these fences, but hasn't looked the same horse since. First start for Peter Bowen offered little encouragement and at this stage it seems likely his best days have passed.
Standing dish over these fences and made most for deserved win in this race two years ago. Now 8lb lower having failed to win since but Grand National seventh in the spring showed that these fences can galvanise him into a huge performance, even at the age of 14. Reappearance run not devoid of promise and this will have been the target, so not beyond the realms of possibility that he could regain his title despite being 5lb wrong at the weights.
Former Henrietta Knight inmate who isn't badly treated on the pick of his form but is a stone out of the handicap here. That said, next to no weight for David Bass to carry and ran well at a big price over these fences in the spring and also when previously tried in cheekpieces, which return. However, entitled to need reappearance and nothing in the form book says he wants this ground.
Third in this race last year when a couple of pounds out of the handicap but was beaten 54 lengths and now 15lb wrong at the weights. Infrequent winner who is at his best on good ground and although only seven will need to show significant improvement to take a hand in the finish.
A fascinating renewal with a nice blend of young improvers and those who've shown form over these fences in the past.
The last two winners of this race - West End Rocker and Hello Bud - are certainly worthy of respect, particularly the former who is fully entitled to his position at the head of the market.
However, BIG FELLA THANKS has looked a non-stayer in the Grand National and connections may now accept that this race represents his best chance to win over the famous Aintree fences.
He was in the process of running a promising race on his return - his first start in a tongue tie - and his record shows that there's no reason to worry about backing him on his next start after a failure to complete.
Join Together is perhaps the most interesting of the younger generation but it remains to be seen how he'll cope with this test and the percentage call is to side with a horse who has successfully navigated these fences before, so Big Fella Thanks gets the vote.