Arguably one of the best trials for the Grand National is the Becher Handicap Chase and the first taste of the National fences this season.
Last year’s runaway winner Blaklion returns for another crack, and is unquestionably the class horse in the race. He was brought down in the National last season when well-fancied before pulling up next time out in the Bet365 Chase at Sandown. He will be thereabouts, but there is certainly more uncertainity surrounding him this season up 5lbs and his stablemat Ballyoptic could be a better proposition.
The usual suspects line-up again for this with former runners such as Highland Lodge, Dare To Endeavour and Vieux Lion Rouge, who could all run an honest race. In particular the latter, who is back to a winnable mark and will like the ground.
But I really like the look of Irish Raider CROSSHUE BOY, who could potentially be well ahead of the handicapper as he goes in search of Ireland’s third victory in the race. Sean Doyle got his young chaser to win three miraculous races in 10 days in Ireland back in March putting in foot-perfect performances.
Crosshue Boy ran well to finish third in a Novice Grade B Chase behind Bel Ami De Sivola over two miles when looking for the four-timer. And then put in a career best three weeks later when stepping up in trip to three miles at Ayr to claim the £100,000 Novices’ Championship Handicap on Scottish Grand National day.
He went off at 22/1 for that, but has been fairly well supported in recent days for this. That’s not a massive surprise with the going looking heavy and Crosshue Boy holding plenty of form on it. His trainer has also displayed confidence over his ability to stay this 3m 2f trip and he has a nice racing weight to do it in at 10st 10lbs.
If he takes to the National fences, which he looks bound to do, then he should go extremely close for the eye-catcher of David Mullins in the saddle.
1pt each-way Crosshue Boy @8/1, 13:30 Aintree, Saturday (1/5 odds, six places with Paddy Power)