Grand National hero One For Arthur and former winners Vieux Lion Rouge and Walk In The Mill headline 26 five-day confirmations for the Becher Handicap Chase over the Grand National fences at Aintree on Saturday.
One For Arthur became the first Scottish-trained winner of the world’s greatest chase for 38 years when scoring for Kinross-based Lucinda Russell in 2017, and finished sixth behind Tiger Roll in this year’s renewal.
Vieux Lion Rouge (David Pipe) boasts an exceptional record over the Grand National fences, having completed on all seven appearances over the unique obstacles, and scored by a short-head in a thrilling 2016 Becher Handicap Chase.
He was runner-up to Walk In The Mill (Robert Walford) 12 months ago and both horses will be aiming to become the third dual winner of the race following Into The Red (1994 & 1996) and Hello Bud (2010 & 2012).
Vintage Clouds (Sue Smith) has placed at the last two Cheltenham Festivals.
The nine-year-old, owned by three-time Grand National winner Trevor Hemmings, will be making his second outing over the Grand National fences, having fallen at the first in this year’s Grand National.
Unexposed second-season novice Mulcahys Hill stayed on well to beat subsequent winner Wholestone by a neck in a Cheltenham novices’ chase in October.
His trainer Warren Greatrex said today: “The Becher Chase is the plan for Mulcahys Hill.
“We decided to bypass Cheltenham in November and run here given that we think the Grand National fences could suit as he jumps so well.
“The Becher Chase is a big pot and hopefully he can run a big race at Aintree.”
Gigginstown House Stud and Gordon Elliott have teamed up to win the last two runnings of the Grand National with Tiger Roll. The owner/trainer combination could bid for another major Aintree success with top-weight Alpha Des Obeaux, who was third in the Down Royal Champion Chase at the start of November.
Definitly Red (Brian Ellison) has tasted success on Becher Chase Day in 2017 and 2018, winning the Virgin Bet Price Boosts Many Clouds Chase on both occasions. The 10-year-old was badly hampered on his only previous start over the Grand National fences in the 2017 Grand National.
Nigel Twiston-Davies has won the Becher Handicap Chase a record six times and the Gloucestershire handler looks set to be represented by Ballyoptic, who took the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.
Other contenders include Mysteree (Michael Scudamore), who beat One For Arthur at Kelso in October.
Saturday’s other race over the Grand National fences on Becher Chase Day is the Virgin Bet Grand Sefton Handicap Chase over two miles and five furlongs, which has 19 five-day confirmations headed by the Nicky Henderson-trained duo of Gold Present and Casablanca Mix.
Other leading contenders include Flying Angel (Nigel Twiston-Davies), after capturing a handicap chase at Ascot, Touch Kick (Paul Nicholls), successful on his seasonal return at Fakenham in October, plus Ultragold (Colin Tizzard), twice successful over the course and distance in the Topham Chase. There is also a French-trained entry in It’s Jennifer (Louisa Carberry).
A tremendous day’s racing also features the Virgin Bet Price Boosts Many Clouds Chase (2.40pm). The three mile, one furlong contest looks set to be a superb affair, with the first two home from the 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup – Native River (Colin Tizzard) and Might Bite (Nicky Henderson) – featuring among the eight contenders.
Definitly Red (Brian Ellison) may aim for a third straight win in the race, while last season’s Ryanair Chase runner-up Aso (Venetia Williams) has also been entered alongside Black Corton (Paul Nicholls) and Top Notch (Nicky Henderson).
The going at Aintree is currently Soft, Good to Soft in places on the Grand National course and Good to Soft, Soft in places on the Mildmay and Hurdle courses.