At three and a half miles long and contested over the famous Aintree fences, the Becher Chase is one of the few races to give genuine clues to how a horse might perform in the Grand National.
It was no surprise to see past and possible future entries for Grand National lining up to contest this years renewal of Betfred Becher Handicap Steeple Chase at Aintree on Saturday December 7 2013.
The Donald McCain trained Across The Bay, who led the National field for two thirds of the race last year, was back at Aintree along with last years pre-race favourite On His Own. Both we're joined by past national hopefuls Swing Bill, Wyck Hill, Big Fella Thanks, Roberto Goldback, Junior, Join Together and Mr Moonshine.
With two last minute withdrawals, a record number of 22 ran in the Becher Chase and though for many it isn't quite the spectacle of the Crabbies Grand National few could pick holes in the quality of the line up. The £150,000 race prize fund no doubt did the job in attracting owners to a cold but sunny Aintree.
As the horses paraded the bookmakers who had already enjoyed a profitable day of beaten favourites where hoping that the much fancied Willie Mullins trained On His Own would compound the misery for punters.
Nevertheless, many in the crowd were backing Sam Twiston-Davis on Baby Run to spring a surprise, shortening his odds from an earlier 66/1 to 12/1. In 2012 Sam rode the ageing Hello Bud to victory in this race and many in the crowd sensed another fairy tale was in the making. The fact that Baby Run had not raced for a 959 days didn't seem to deter the more emotional punter.
It was clear from the early stages of the race that once again On His Own had done little to justify his price with the bookmakers. Vesper Bell and Sizing Australia were early fallers and the field took shape with Baby Run leading from the outset.
David Pipe's Swing Bill looked in contention for a long way around but trailed off as the end came into view and three fences out the battle began between Chance Du Roy, ridden by Tom O'Brien, and Baby Run.
It was to be O'Brien's day despite his earlier fears that fellow stable jockey Richard Johnson would switch and take the ride on Chance Du Roy when his own mount Planet Of Sound was declared a non-runner, but much to O'Brien's relief Johnson allowed him to keep the ride and the Hobbs yard is now £84,405.00 better off for that decision.
Grand National-winning jockey Ryan Mania finished third on Mr Moonshine once again proving that his ability to get over the Aintree fences should not be underestimated.
Betting Markets for the 2014 Grand National have undergone the first major shake-up of the season with many pushing On His Own right out from ante-post favourite to a general 33/1 while simultaneously shortening Chance Du Roy to as little as 25/1.