Sound reasons to oppose Own
Ian Brindle's horse-by-horse guide to Saturday's Betfred Becher Chase at Aintree.
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Not unheard of for top-weights to win this race (Young Hustler, Young Kenny and Earth Summit all carried 12 stones to victory) and, while a class horse on his day, he has to defy a long absence having disappointed when last seen on the Flat in the Queen Alexandra Stakes. Fell in the 2012 Grand National and looks up against it.
Has course form in his favour and good to see Wayne Hutchinson back on board having finished second on him in last year's Topham. Stable won this in 2011 and, though more rain would have helped his chance, he is still a contender if you can forgive his run in the Old Roan Chase.
Big Fella Thanks
Something of a regular in the Grand National and was third to Hello Bud in last year's renewal. Ran abysmally at Ascot on his reappearance and hasn't been done too many favours by the handicapper as he tries to go two better off a 6lb higher mark.
Made a fair reappearance at Ascot when staying on into fourth and, while having a little to prove at present, he's tended to run his better races in the early part of the season. Unseated rider when tailed off in last year's National so questions to answer over the fences.
Across The Bay
No surprise to see him backed ante-post as his price didn't reflect his relative chance. Useful on his day over hurdles and fences and though he didn't seem to stay the trip in the National; he could have clear claims if getting a soft lead upfront.
Tried in blinkers for the first time having flopped at Auteuil and potentially well handicapped on the pick of his form. Second off a mark of 148 last year and off a 2lb lower marke on this occasion, he wouldn't be inconvenienced if the going stayed as it is.
On His Own
Archetypal Saturday favourite and no stranger to winning in quality races having won the Thyestes Chase and the Boyne Hurdle. His critics however will point out that he's yet to complete in two attempts at the Grand National and with Ruby Walsh riding elsewhere, it will be interesting to see how the market reacts.
Planet Of Sound
High class on his day and having been tried off a rating of 156 in the 2012 National, he arrives into this contest off a 12lb lower mark. Has gone well first time out in the past (winning a Haldon Gold Cup and finishing second in a Hennessy) and Richard Johnson keeps the faith.
Has a first run for David Pipe having left Jessie Harrington and connections taking no chances with tonguestrap and blinkers applied. Won the 2011 RSA Chase but has latterly been tried in Cross Country races so hard to know if his handicap mark is fair.
Something of a dark horse having only had 11 career starts and we saw him on this side of the Irish Sea when seventh in the Kim Muir at Cheltenham. Suspicion that softer ground will see him to better effect though the market has to be watched carefully.
Bought with a Grand National in mind by current connections though a troublesome leg injury has hindered his progress. Has work to do on the evidence of his Ascot reappearance but he was fast improving last term and could be potentially thrown in if taking to the Aintree fences.
No stranger to the Aintree fences and ran on to be sixth in last year's Grand National on his final start of the season. Well backed for this race in 2011 and was fourth in 2012 and he cannot be written off from a 2lb lower mark in this season's contest.
Won a Stratford handicap in taking fashion and attempts to repeat the dose off a 7lb higher mark. His unfashionable connections will ensure he goes off a big price for his followers.
Took advantage of a staggeringly low mark over hurdles to win on seasonal reappearance before finishing second in the Risk Of Thunder Chase at Punchestown. A good horse in Cross Country races but hard to make a case for at this level.
Very useful Hunter on his day and took the 2011 Foxhunters at Aintree having dramatically unseated his rider at Cheltenham when in a winning position three weeks earlier. Third in the bet365 Gold Cup off today's mark and given his trainer's record in the race, he has to be respected despite an extremely long absence.
Pineau De Re
Has run a couple of decent races for Richard Newland having left Philip Fenton and has a history of performing well when big fields have obtained (won at Downpatrick and placed at Leopardstown). Capable of showing form on any surface and not without hope.
Rose Of The Moon
Won two Novice chases for current trainer having won over hurdles for David Pipe. Well backed for the Ascot Gold Cup and probably one to leave alone as he spectacularly failed to justify that market confidence.
Chance Du Roy
Couldn't be backed on his most recent efforts though he's fallen down the weights as a consequence. Second off a mark of 148 in the 2012 Topham, he's now 8lb lower than his last winning mark and if a return to the Aintree fences can reawaken his enthusiasm, he has literally no weight to carry.
Didn't appear to like the switch to the Cross Country course at Cheltenham and has experience of these fences having finished sixth in the 2012 renewal of this race, and fifth in the Topham later that season. Seems high enough in the handicap at present and others make more appeal.
Dour staying chaser and winner of two races for Tom George having left David Pipe. Ticks the boxes in terms of weight carried (11 of the last 21 winners have carried 10st5lb or less) though one would have liked to have seen his yard in much better form than they are.
No Tony McCoy with him today but Richie McLernon was aboard when landing the Summer Cup at Uttoxeter and he was far from disgraced at Chepstow in slower conditions. Still open to improvement at his age though needs a career best to win.
Represents the stable of Auroras Encore and worth noting that the stable have won this race twice previously. Regrettably, he hasn't fulfilled much of the promise he exhibited during the earlier part of his career but a fair effort in the Old Roan Chase from out of the handicap suggests he could retain some ability.
A big price despite the form of the stable and progressed from a low handicap mark to rattle up five victories (including a Beginners chase) in a 12-month period from May 2012. Struggled in last year's Topham and has to bounce back from a no show at Stratford on his reappearance.
Bids to become the first six-year-old to win this contest and cheekpieces replace the visor he wore when successful at Cartmel during the summer. Didn't show much at Cheltenham last time and now has a bit to prove.
A real case of taking on experience versus potential and were Wyck Hill able to justify any of the regard in which he is held, he could be capable of blowing away the opposition off a mark of 140.
On His Own has ability but his failure to complete in two previous starts over the Aintree fences is somewhat offputting and the absence of Ruby Walsh may ensure he goes off a bigger price than he was trading at earlier in the week.
Ten winners of this prize have seen their ages in double figures (Hello Bud achieved it twice) and the handicapper may just have given the opportunity for PLANET OF SOUND to score. It's 16 years since Hobbs last landed this prize but his 11-year-old has vital course experience to fall back upon and he has proved more than capable of striking first time out.