Alan King’s Ziga Boy gets the Oddsguru’s vote for Saturday’s Becher Chase
Betfred Becher Handicap Chase 3m2f Aintree Saturday – The two stand out statistics for Saturday’s contest have to be that the last seventeen winners were rated under 149, and the last six to pass the post in front, were rated lower than 138, emphasising, that both The Last Samuri (159), and Vicompte Du Noyer (154) have a mountain to climb at the weekend. Age has been no bar to success with the race going to an animal aged 11 or older six times, since its inception in 1992. Indeed, both Oscar Time, and Hello Bud, (for his second win) were teenagers when collecting. Nigel Twiston-Davies has been the most successful trainer with five victories, followed by Paul Nicholls with three. Apart from two wins by the late lamented Dessie Hughes, Black Apalaci (2008), and Vic Venturi (2009), Irish stables have drawn a blank but, they mount a serious challenge for this year’s renewal, not least with the Eric Mc Namara trained 9yo Dare To Endeavour.
He was beaten 2 1/4L in last year’s contest by Highland Lodge, and meets him on 4lbs better terms on Saturday. He further demonstrated his aptitude for the Aintree Spruce, when completing in the Topham Trophy in April, and having pleased his trainer with a decent run in a Limerick 3m chase eight weeks ago, he comes here with plenty of stable confidence behind him, particularly if it comes up soft.
The 8yo Ucello Conti was trained in France until joining the Elliott Academy at the end of last year. He had won eight of his thirteen starts across the channel, including a 3yo chase at Auteil, but was never tried beyond 21f. Shrewd trainer that Gordon Elliott is, he recognised the animal as a stayer, and he duly ran a very solid race in his first attempt at a trip, when finishing third in the 25f Thyestes Chase last January, in bog like conditions. He was sent off a 25/1 shot for the Grand National next time out, and demonstrated that the Aintree obstacles held no fears for him when, he ran a great race to finish 6th off a mark of 149. Retired for the season, he had a nice pipe opener over hurdles at Navan twenty days ago. He doesn’t look badly treated on a mark of 148, and coming from this yard, which can do no wrong at the moment, looks worthy of his prominent position in the market.
Fergal O’Briens tough staying veteran, the 11yo Alvarado, has been placed twice in the National, and, having run another fine race in the Scottish equivalent last April, where he finished 2nd, off a mark of 135, upped stumps for the season.
He made a highly satisfactory reappearance behind Saturday’s opponent, Viconte Du Noyer at Cheltenham three weeks ago, where, having lost his place at the 15th fence, ran on well from the 3rd last to finish 6th, 7L behind the Tizzard horse. He meets Viconte Du Noyer on 10lbs better terms at the weekend and with only 10st2lbs in the plate is another to make plenty of appeal.
Mouse Morris runs his Irish Grand National winner Rogue Angel and the 8yo looks realistically treated on a mark of 145, 7lbs higher than for his hard fought Fairyhouse victory. Thought to have needed his two outings this season, in the Munster and Cork Nationals, Morris, the hugely talented trainer of this year’s Grand National winner, Rule The World, is quite bullish about the chances of Rogue Angel, expecting “great improvement” from his last run.
It is 15 years since the legendary Ginger McCain won this with subsequent Aintree Hero Amberleigh House, and I’m sure son Donald would love to emulate his dad, by winning this with the 7yo Knock House, for one of his most loyal supporters, Tim Leslie.
He ran a very promising race at the Cheltenham Festival, where, despite being badly hampered at the 13th fence, rallied to finish 4th in a field of 22 runners, off a mark of 144. He disappointed 3weeks later and was retired for the season. He makes his reappearance on Saturday off a generous looking mark of 141 giving him a racing weight of 10st8lbs and as he can go well fresh is another to consider.
Alan King runs Ziga Boy, and as he has won in December for the last two years, this certainly looks like his time of year. Having won last December off a mark of 117, he put up a real eye catching performance off a 16lbs higher mark next time, when winning a Class1 Doncaster handicap by 3 1/4L and 1/2L from the useful pair Coologue and Buywise at the end of January. He disappointed in his two following runs, both at Kempton, and was put away until reappearing in a 3m Bangor handicap chase 24 days ago. Needing the race, he finished a respectable 5th off a mark of 138 and lines up on Saturday on a 1lb lower mark. Having won this with West End Rocker in 2011, King knows what is required, and it will come as no surprise to see this good jumper, (has never fallen) involved at the business end.
Selection : Ziga Boy
E.W. : Alvarado