Matt Brocklebank focuses on the Randox Health Becher Chase at Aintree on December 7 as he seeks to unearth the best long-range value.
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The Randox Health Becher Handicap Chase at Aintree is a brilliant betting race and one well worth close consideration before the market cuts up over the next few days.
There’s still seemingly a bit of mileage in the Paul Nicholls-trained, Sir Alex Ferguson-owned, recent Badger Beers Trophy winner Give Me A Copper from his revised mark of 148 (up 6lb from Wincanton), and the double-figure odds about him probably won't last long.
The Grand National in April is the long-term target and it makes sense for connections to try and strike again while the iron is hot before putting the fragile, lightly-raced nine-year-old away for the spring.
He wouldn’t want bottomless ground but is versatile ground-wise and is clearly very talented on his day.
The problem is those days have been few and far between since sent chasing and, given his fragile past, he looks one to oppose ahead of this first taste of the famous Aintree birch.
Plenty of others around him towards the top of the betting do have experience of this unique track, including previous Becher winners Walk In The Mill and Vieux Lion Rouge, but neither sets the pulse racing this time around.
Mulcahys Hill has been hit pretty hard by the handicapper for beating Wholestone in a Cheltenham novice chase in October, while the likes of Pleasant Company and Borice don’t appear certain starters.
Call It Magic didn’t seem to stay after travelling and jumping sweetly for much of the three and a quarter miles in last year’s renewal but he could be interesting off a 2lb lower mark with another year on his back.
He’s 20/1 but I’m more interested in a couple at 33s, starting with Thomas Patrick who comes with significant risks attached and was clearly baffling trainer Tom Lacey with some moderate efforts last season.
He did start the last campaign with a really good run behind Elegant Escape at Sandown, though, after which he was quite well fancied for the Ladbrokes Trophy.
Thomas Patrick remains one to monitor and a positive update on his well-being would be eyecatching but the claims for BALLYDINE are more compelling and he could prove to be underestimated.
He’s always been a good horse and won back-to-back in his novice hurdle days before pushing Barters Hill close in the Grade Two River Don and then running in the three-mile Grade One at Aintree.
A bit like the current 10/1 jolly, Ballydine has been tricky to train over the past couple of seasons but in fairness to Charlie Longsdon’s charge he was fairly consistent before pulling up in the Midlands National when last seen in March.
Longsdon says on his website that the horse came back 'sore' and 'wrong' following that Uttoxeter outing, having struggled to get going in the jumping department, but I think we can excuse him a bad run at the end of the season, especially given his earlier form in quality, deep handicap chases.
He started last autumn rated 134 having won at Sandown in the February and ran a decent fifth in the Rehearsal Chase, after which he stepped up markedly when going close in the Mandarin at Newbury.
He was only nailed really late on by Newbury specialist Carole’s Destrier that day and posted arguably a better effort still when third to Wakanda in the Peter Marsh at Haydock.
That came from a mark of 140 and he's been eased a pound following the subsequent flop in March so 139 is suddenly looking quite workable again, especially when you consider he was as high as 145 as a hurdler.
A crack at the big one in April is reportedly the dream for the team behind Ballydine (owner is a prominent figure at Aintree) so he’s going to have to do well between now and then if he’s to stand a chance of making the cut - Tiger Roll is rated 172.
Longsdon knows he can go well fresh, he has proved his stamina beyond doubt and he’ll be fine no matter the ground – the long-range forecast is actually quite favourable so it may not be a complete mudbath.
A previous spin around the National course would obviously be ideal, but Ballydine is 33/1 and given all the other elements are seemingly in his favour, he looks the one to chance at the prices.
Posted at 1640 GMT on 27/11/19