Timeform assess the Becher Chase favourite and give their verdict for Saturday's race at Aintree.
Focus on the favourite
Le Breuil (6/1)
Conditions will be testing at Aintree on Saturday and the Becher Chase, contested over nearly three and a quarter miles, will provide a stern examination of stamina. There are no stamina concerns for Le Breuil, though, as he memorably won an attritional renewal of the National Hunt Chase over nearly four miles at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival.
Le Breuil also shaped with clear promise when finishing seventh in the Becher Chase last season, taking well to the National fences at the first time of asking. He disappointed on two subsequent starts last season but trainer Ben Pauling's horses seemed out of sorts for much of the campaign, which offers a legitimate excuse, and Le Breuil posted a more encouraging effort on his reappearance at Kelso in October, despite coming home last of four finishers. Pauling has been among the winners in recent days and Le Breuil looks well treated from a mark 9 lb lower than the one he competed off in last year's Becher.
An outsider to consider
Coo Star Sivola (11/1)
Coo Star Sivola shares some similarities with Le Breuil. He has also won at the Cheltenham Festival, landing the Ultima Handicap Chase in 2018, and he too then experienced a disappointing campaign, failing to make an impact in four starts in 2018/19. However, Coo Star Sivola shaped as if retaining plenty of ability and enthusiasm on his return from more than 600 days off at Bangor last month, holding every chance at the third-last before tiring in a soundly-run race on heavy ground that exposed any fitness concerns. Coo Star Sivola is entitled to take a step forward on that effort and is a notably good jumper, so should take well to this unique test.
A stat to note
Vieux Lion Rouge has completed on all eight starts over the National fences
Modifications to the Grand National course mean that the fences are less imposing than in the past, but they still pose a sterner test of a horse's jumping than traditional obstacles. It is to Vieux Lion Rouge's credit then that he has completed on all eight outings around the National course. Vieux Lion Rouge won the Becher Chase off a mark of 142 four years ago and he was runner-up off a mark of 146 two seasons ago. He can race off a mark of 140 now, which is clearly fair, though he is rising 12 and hasn't looked like winning since scoring in October last year.
Walk In The Mill heads Timeform’s weight-adjusted ratings and has won this race for the last two seasons, so he is entitled to plenty of respect. Coo Star Sivola is another who must enter the equation as he is also on a fair mark and should prove well suited by this test, but preference is for Le Breuil, who was an eye-catcher in this race last year and can now compete off a 9 lb lower mark. The key for Le Breuil could be the form of trainer Ben Pauling, who has his string in much better form than last year.
Timeform weight-adjusted ratings:
- 172 Walk In The Mill
- 170 Jett
- 170 Kimberlite Candy
- 169 Calett Mad
- 169 Ramses de Teillee
- 169 Vieux Lion Rouge