Friday, 8th December 2017
Horses carrying less than 11-00 have done best in the Becher Handicap Chase (Aintree, 1.30) over the last couple of decades and, with conditions set to be testing tomorrow, I expect weight to be a key factor again this time around.
At the prices, I’m minded to side with Donald McCain’s FEDERICI at an each-way price of 20s....
Earlier this week McCain was still of the mind that on a mark of 129 his 8yo wouldn’t make it into the Becher field. McCain expected to run him instead in the Grand Sefton over the 2m5f trip – a race in which he placed 6th last year.
But Federici has got in at the bottom of the weights. He’s out of the handicap and 4lbs wrong, but McCain has still chosen to go with the Becher option rather than the Sefton – where he would have been in the handicap proper.
I think that’s an indication that McCain feels the horse is more likely to prosper over 3m2f than 2m5f. And I’m confident of a decent showing.
In last season’s Sefton the horse appeared to take to the National fences, but it all happened a bit quick for him at the trip – and I take encouragement from the fact he was staying on nicely enough at the end. The extra furlongs tomorrow should see him to better effect.
Last time out – winning at Kelso over 2m5f – the horse produced a decent effort that suggests a mark of 129 is not beyond him.
That day he wore cheekpieces for the first time since joining McCain from Enda Bolger’s yard. They helped. So too did a more positive ride from Will Kennedy.
The cheekpiece are on again tomorrow and I expect similar tactics. He might not get it all his own way. But he can be made a bit more prominent use of than was the case in last year’s Sefton. If he takes to the fences as he did last year he might take some reeling in on heavy ground under just a 10-00 weight.
I’m not concerned about the ground. The horse has run fair enough races on soft ground in Ireland. The underfoot conditions will produce a real test of stamina and that could benefit a horse that’s been described in the past as a ‘dour stayer’.
The McCain yard has been in decent heart over the last fortnight. This was the race they wanted to run in. The horse has snuck into at the bottom and, in the conditions, he can run a big race.
In tomorrow’s Grand Sefton Handicap Chase (Aintree 3.10), Lucinda Russell’s IMJOEKING makes each-way appeal at the 16s.
He fell in last season’s Topham but that’s the only time he’s ever been on the ground in 18 goes over fences. Jumping is this horse’s big strength and I’m prepared to give him a go at getting it right over the Grand National fences at the second time of asking.
He warmed up for this last month racing over conventional fences at Aintree. That was over an inadequate 2-miles without the services of his usual jockey and I doubt the run was any more than a prep-race to blow away the cobwebs for tomorrow’s race.
The ground has come right for him. He won’t mind the testing conditions. And he’ll find it a bit easier than most being one of just three horses in tomorrow’s field carrying less than 11-00.
Derek Fox is back in the saddle for tomorrow’s assignment. That must be viewed as a plus. The last time he rode over the big Aintree fences it was when winning last season’s Grand National on One For Arthur.
Imjoeking is rated just 3lb above his last winning mark over fences. This is a different type of test and a mark earned over orthodox fences might not be the full measure of him over the spruce.
He has the ability required to get over the fences tomorrow and with conditions to suit and less lead in the saddlebag than most, he can outrun his double-figure quote.
The Contrarian Bet Box….
To recap on where my contrarian money will be going tomorrow afternoon….
In the Becher Handicap Chase (1.30 @ Aintree)....
In the Grand Sefton Handicap Chase (3.10 @ Aintree)....
That is my take on where the value lies – but you will no doubt have your own ideas and that’s exactly as it should be.
That’s all from me for now.
I’ll be back a little later today with ATC Extra....
Until then. Stay tuned.