Racing pundit Tony McCormick from www.irishbigracetrends.com and new racing radio station racingfm.com looks forward to the first race of the season over the Grand National fences, The Becher Chase at Aintree, and the Grade 1 Tingle Creek at Sandown
Becher’s Brook has always been a notorious and controversial obstacle, because of the size and angle of the 6ft 9in drop on the landing side. Some jockeys have compared it to ‘jumping off the edge of the world’.
In August 2011, Aintree announced new modifications to Becher’s Brook following a review of the course in the aftermath of the 2011 National. Amongst the changes to the course, the landing side of Becher’s was re-profiled to reduce the current drop by between four and five inches across the width of the fence. The drop is now approximately 10 inches on the inside of the course and six inches on the outside of the course. The height of the fence remains unaltered at 4 ft 10 inches.
Champion trainer Paul Nicholls is set to launch a twin assault over the Grand National fences in the Betfred Becher Chase at Aintree on Saturday as he bids to land the Grade Three handicap for a fourth time. Leading the trainer’s challenge is second-season chaser Just A Par, who landed a Grade Two as a novice last season.
The seven-year-old finished fifth in the Badger Ales Trophy on his seasonal return at Wincanton last month and is a 12-1 chance with the sponsor to land the prestigious Aintree contest.
Nicholls has also entered Mon Parrain (20-1), who was last seen in a handicap chase at Cheltenham in October when he was pulled up behind Roalco De Farges. However, his trainer believes the eight-year-old may have needed the outing and his course form over the National fences may bring out the best in him.
Sandown stages the Grade One Tingle Creek Chase with Ireland’s champion trainer Willie Mullins is looking to take advantage of the showpiece being without its last two winners, Sprinter Sacre and Sire De Grugy. The County Carlow handler is three-handed with Ballycasey, Felix Yonger and Twinlight while his brother Tom supplies a fourth Irish possible in dual Cheltenham Festival winner Alderwood.
Paul Nicholls, who has won the race eight times, has put in Dodging Bullets and Hinterland, winner of the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase over the course and distance last year.
The Tom George-trained God’s Own is still a novice and also holds an entry in the Racing Post Henry VIII Novices’ Chase on the same card, but showed at Exeter that he is up to taking on the big boys.
His jockey Paddy Brennan is expecting another bold show at the weekend.
“I’m really looking forward to Saturday. God’s Own is a horse we hold in high regard and everything seems to be right for him,” Brennan told At The Races. “We are just hoping for a dry week. The better the ground, the better his chance. Good to soft, soft would be perfect.
“I really like this horse. He’s tough, he’s brave and I’m really hoping he can step up to Grade One level.
“He’s been taken along slowly. There’s never a fluke when you win a Grade Two Haldon Gold Cup. He’s proved he’s above average and he’s a horse that can go further, I think.”
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