Aintree Race Preview, 06/12/2019

Aintree
Saturday December 7th

Aintree 1.30
Randox Health Becher Handicap Chase Class 1 Grade 3
3m1f188y – Going: Soft –
Over the Grand National Course – 18 runners

Alpha Des Obeaux
After going down only on the post against Jett at Punchestown on reappearance, ran well against Road To Respect in Champion Chase at Down Royal last time, quickened pace 9th, pushed along going to 3 out, hard ridden after, headed and couldn’t go with 1st 2 approaching 2 out, hard driven, kept on going to last, no further impression on 1st 2 but stuck to task – good run, but he was largely able to dominate in this small field in a less-than-truly-run race. No form in three runs at Aintree, in the 2018 Grand National prominent when blundered badly at the first ditch (3rd), doing okay when fell heavily at The Chair. Runner-up in a big field in the Thyestes at Gowran Park in January, but previous experience of these fences doesn’t inspire (in the Becher the first ditch is the 2nd)
Ballyoptic
Won easily at Chepstow in October then had to get tough to follow up in Charlie Hall at Wetherby last month, doing Aso for stamina then having enough in hand to hold off the staying-on Elegant Escape. Wasn’t expected to win the Betfair Chase at Haydock last time but didn’t jump well enough anyway, slow 4th, niggled along before in close and slow 6th, hard ridden and lost place home turn, tailed off behind Lostintranslation. Was a faller in last year’s Becher (prominent in chasing group when fell 11th – was doing okay at the time) and again hit the deck in the latest Grand National, prominent 19th, mistakes 22nd (2nd Becher’s) and 23rd (2nd Foinavon), ridden into 25th, niggled along approaching 26th, more vigorously pushed along when fell 4 out, beginning to struggle at the time. Not for me on the back of his modest round of jumping in the Betfair Chase
Definitly Red
Won the last two renewals of the Many Clouds Chase on this card. On reappearance, bidding to win the Charlie Hall for the second time surprisingly (given the ground) came up short, not fluent 13th and niggled along, soon more firmly pushed along, kept on home turn, put under pressure, no extra going to 4 out, no impression going to 3 out, driven and no more 2 out, weakened. Failure to finish in the 2017 Grand National wasn’t his fault, as he was badly hampered at first Becher’s and lucky not to get brought down, but his overall trendline is scaling downwards, going back to February with his shock defeat by Captain Redbeard at Kelso. No chase wins in fields bigger than ten
Le Breuil
Best known for taking the last running, in its familiar format, of the National Hunt Chase at the latest Cheltenham Festival, niggled along approaching 21st and chased leader from that point, hard ridden and reminder on downhill run to 3 out, stayed on under a ride and led home turn, the better jump 2 out, hard driven, headed last, put under strong pressure, rallied, led 150 yards out, found the most in a driving finish against Discorama. Not much in the way of promise over hurdles on reappearance in West Yorkshire Hurdle at Wetherby, slow 6th and midfield, slow 7th and lost place/rear, weakened, pulled up before 9th. Unexposed but you have to worry that his win in the NH Chase has left a mark – his reappearance was his worst fresh run to date
One For Arthur
Having had the build-up from hell, emerged with credit after finishing 25 lengths 6th to Tiger Roll in the latest Grand National, slightly detached from main body (37th place) when landed on all fours 16th (Water),  closing in 10th with 10 lengths to find approaching 2 out, effort flattened out after last, running on the spot at the end and was being closed on by the next ones at the post. An encouraging reappearance at Kelso suggests things might be different this season, slow 8th and briefly pushed along away from it, not fluent 10th, slow 11th and became detached in last some 10 lengths off leader, efforrt under a push going to 2 out, hard ridden after last (normally 3 out), strong effort home turn and closed on those ahead, stayed on into 3rd passing the omitted fences in the straight, lost that place inside last 200 yards but stuck to task behind Mysteree. Was a good 5th to Vieux Lion Rouge in this in 2016  and is not a total no-hoper in the Becher judged on his reappearance
Vintage Clouds*
In the 2019 Grand National fell at the 1st – the time before posted his best of the season when runner-up to Beware The Bear in Ultima at the Cheltenham Festival, making a lot of the running, in close to 17th and pushed along away from it, stayed on, held place to 3 out, put under pressure home turn, stayed on and led approaching 2 out, hard driven, headed last, no extra last 175 yards, stuck to task and closed on winner a little last 100 yards. Little encouragement behind Mysteree at Kelso on reappearance, vigorously pushed along starting final circuit, lost place 8th, looked well held 11th, tailing off when mistake last (normally 3 out), driven passing omitted 2 out, kept on late and passed a beaten one but essentially well back. It’s been well documented that Sue Smith’s runners have been needing their reappearances, but the yard’s now back in the room: this one hasn’t won the chases he should have done, but he ought to be competitive off 145
Vieux Lion Rouge
Won this in 2016, and last year needed much persuasion before a fast-finishing 2nd to Walk In The Mill, firmly pushed along 11th, mistake 12th, struggling in last pair 13th, began to stay on approaching 2 out, passed a few, moved into 6th approaching last, stayed on final furlong, moved into 2nd last 100 yards, nothing finished faster but too much ground to make up. Nothing else happened last season including when tailed off in the Grand National (that’s four big fails from as many tries). On reappearance won veterans’ chase at Chepstow in October, ridden into 5 out, pushed along, stayed on going to 4 out, angled out to challenge outer approaching 3 out, ridden and looked to be hanging fire before not fluent 2 out, put under pressure with 2 to 3 lengths to find approaching last, driven, effort run-in, stayed on well to beat On Tour. Over hurdles at Cheltenham last time failed to run to form, lost place approaching 8th, looked held in last pair when mistake 2 out, driven and little response behind Golan Fortune. Now with miles on the clock, not for me despite a favourable mark
Mulcahys Hill 
Showed promise in novice chases just the once last season before, going off 40/1, flopping in the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham, reluctant to start, quickly sent up into midfield by 2nd racing wide, prominent when ridden into 4th, tracked leaders going to 12th, mistake 19th, ridden into 22nd, hard ridden at the top of the hill, lost place going to 3 out, well held and tailing off approaching home turn, fell 2 out. Looked a different animal when beating Wholestone at Cheltenham on reappearance, chased leader 15th, moved comfortably, niggled along from 3 out, pushed along home turn, hard ridden 2 out, 2 lengths to find when in close to last, hard driven, swished tail vigorously, stayed on last 150 yards, sustained effort to lead close home, held on well. His tail-swishing when coming under pressure on the run-in didn’t stop him, but he still comes into the Becher as a horse with no form over fences (or hurdles) in big fields, this only his sixth chase
As De Mee
Proven over these fences, winning the Grand Sefton on this card in 2016, chased leader approaching 12th, travelled comfortably 3 out, effort and led 2 out, pushed along, stayed on going to last, driven out, hung left approaching the Elbow, stayed on well ahead of Seefood last 200 yards, unchallenged. No form since October 2017 including in that year’s Becher, unseated rider 10th. After missing 2018/19 completely, didn’t shape badly – although lacking resolution at the end, not a first for this one – when well held in 7th behind Golan Fortune over hurdles at Cheltenham on comeback (at least finishing ahead of Vieux Lion Rouge),  led 5th, increased pace approaching 7th, headed after 8th, niggled along and chased new leader approaching 2 out, hard ridden approaching home turn, hung left, no extra when mistake last, beaten just over 9 lengths into 7th. Off a maximum mark, hard to rule out
Abolitionist
Won several races for first Shark Hanlon, then Ellmarie Holden, when Irish-trained – was 3rd in the 2017 Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse, effort and closed on Our Duke to within 3 lengths 3 out, outpaced between last 2, mistake last, kept on (actually might have finished 2nd if he’d made his effort later). Immediate impact after joining Dr Richard Newland when winning Pertemps Qualifier over hurdles at Aintree last year on stable debut, but no form since, pulled up in Pertemps Final behind Sire Du Berlais after making some of the running. Tailed off behind Houblon Des Obeaux in veterans’ chase at Sandown on reappearance, head of chasing group from 13th, niggled along from 15th, closed on 1st 2 over the Railway Fences, pushed along turning out of back straight, hard ridden and lost place under a ride passing omitted 3 out, well back and losing ground when in close to 2 out, weakened further and lost places before and after last, lost 5th final stride. Has jumped right before; no form in three runs in cheekpieces (including reappearance) and, wearing them again here, not for me
Walk In The Mill
In this race last year, had enough left to hold off Vieux Lion Rouge, hard ridden and reminder with a bit to do after 3 out, good headway under a ride bend before 2 out and with leaders approaching it, only a length and a half down jumping, driven approaching last, a length down jumping, stayed on and led approaching the Elbow, hard driven, opened up a 5-length lead, ridden out, sustained effort, unchallenged last 250 yards; in the National itself again exceeded expectations (in this corner anyway) although it was down to jockey James Best, off and on the bit, appeared to be struggling bend before 2 out, hard ridden and lost ground on 1st 3 between last 2, driven out from last, kept on final 400 yards without making any impression on first three. Had a rather hot assignment for his seasonal debut in Badger Beers Chase at Wincanton and cut no ice, pushed along away from 11th and 12th, lost ground 16th, struggling and reminders after, well held 3 out, tailing off when pulled up before next behind Give Me A Copper. Not sure what we’re going to get now
Minellacelebration
On first start since winning his second Staffordshire Plate at Uttoxeter in May 2018 (up with the pace throughout from 16 rivals), stayed on well to beat Minella Daddy in a small field over the Mildmay course at Aintree in June this year. Last time out didn’t do well behind today’s rival Wandrin Star at Wincanton in October, lost place and midfield 9th, niggled along 16th, not hard ridden but a bit to do 18th, ridden along 4 out as driopped to last of the main group, no headway, well held 3 out and quickly became detached, well back 2 out, ran down last to left, no more, 22 lengths 6th in the end. Normally ridden more positively than he was at Wincanton, and having never won a chase right-handed, it’s reasonable to think he’ll do better here if taking to the fences
Wandrin Star*
Won three chases, two of them at Bangor; was winning somewhere else for the first time when posting a career-best at Wincanton on reappearance last time, prominent after 13th, ridden into 16th, hard ridden into and in close to 18th, moved comfortably tracking leaders turning out of back straight, mistake 4 out and lost ground, hard ridden home turn, outpaced and not looking the winner going to 3 out, stayed on under a ride, effort going to 2 out andc closed on leaders, put under pressure, a length down when left in 2nd by White Moon’s fall, hard driven run-in, strong run to head Beau Du Brizais 75 yards out, going away at the line. An emerging staying chaser here, albeit one who needs strong handling, and the further he goes the better he’ll be, but this is a suitable target on his way to wherever he ends up (Scottish Grand National?)
Like The Sound
Was progressive towards the end of last season and took his second chase win on his final start, in a small field at Taunton in March, chased leader 9th, raced wide, ridden into 12th, lost ground and ridden into 14th, jumped left from then to the end, niggled along from 15th, led 4 out, pushed along, stayed on to draw clear by 3 out, sustained effort going to 2 out, firmly pushed along to maintain approaching last, driven out, all out, was closed on last 125 yards but always holding on from fast-finishing Pobbles Bay. Not much promise on reappearance over hurdles in Pertemps Qualifier at Market Rasen last month when last of nine to Rapper, pushed along from 8th, mistake 9th, kept on in slight lead turning out of back straight, hard ridden and headed approaching 2 out, weakened under pressure approaching last, dropped further back through field to last run-in. The one thing his Taunton and Market Rasen races have in common is that he finished weakly in both and he needs a big personal best here
Ballydine
No wins last season but a couple of decent placed efforts, best when 3rd to Wakanda in Peter Marsh at Haydock in January, midfield when mistake 3rd, headway and chased leader after 6th, in close to 9th, shuffled back 10th, prominent to midfield till made ground to chase leader 13th, ridden 4 out, blundered 3 out and lost place, well held  2 out, put under pressure, stayed on well from last, strong effort to take 3rd close home. Would have been up for 1st or 2nd but for the bad mistake at the third last. Made a whole stack of mistakes before pulling up 2 out in Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter when last seen. Has gone well fresh before; jumping is clearly a major worry although there’s no fall or unseat on his record, so I’m giving the benefit of the doubt
Mysteree*
Only twice in his career he’s been blinkered, and twice he’s run stormers – when runner-up in Eider at Newcastle last February,  tracked leaders 19th and moved comfortably enough, pushed along home turn, stayed on from 4 out, hard driven, effort and disputed lead 3 out, driven again, sustained effort and disputed lead 2 out, pulled clear with Crosspark nearing last, driven and took a neck lead, stayed on, headed inside last 100 yards and no extra close home; and when winning over 3m2f at Kelso on reappearance, with One For Arthur and Vintage Clouds behind; travelled comfortably, gradually closed on leaders from 2 out (normally 4 out), mistake last, pushed along home turn, effort and took 2nd approaching omitted 2 out, pushed along, put under pressure approaching omitted last, driven clear, stayed on strongly under pressure last 200 yards. Despite his high 138-mark, and that he’s nearly 12, such is the form he’s attained with the headgear that I have to have him in the mix
Kimberlite Candy
Made a winning reappearance last season, at Ayr in November 2018, disputed lead 15th, moved comfortably, pushed along 4 out, disputed lead 3 out, led 2 out, jockey seemed to be at pains not to go for the whip approaching last, upsides rival jumping, ridden and stayed on well with whip only waved to pull clear of Silver Tassie last 150 yards. Only other form of the campaign when good 3rd to Classic Ben at Sandown in February, prominent 17th, ridden into 19th, pushed along approaching 3 out, stuck to task going to 2 out, put under pressure approaching last, kept on but no impression on 1st 2, some 4 lengths down jumping it, hard driven, closed on 1st 2 last 175 yards, still gaining at the finish. Was struggling halfway before pulling up 16th in Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse when last seen. Tough ask on reappearance and drying ground might count against him (dry overnight forecast), but not out of things
Regal Flow
This 12 year-old is a while without a win since taking the 2018 Midlands Grand National; was in this race last year and didn’t do well, struggling towards rear and niggled along 11th, passed a couple and midfield 13th, still making ground when blundered and unseated rider 14th (Foinavon). Ran okay in veterans’ chase at Warwick last time when 3rd to King’s Odyssey, disputed lead 12th, pushed along 14th, hard ridden and lost place after 3 out, reminder before 2 out, stayed on approaching last, hard driven, went 3rd, closed on 1st 2 a little last 150 yards but couldn’t reach them. Favourably treated, but that was the case at Warwick, and the same issues regarding his lack of size apply as much this year as they did last

Shortlist: Vintage Clouds, Wandrin Star, Mysteree

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