Picture: Liverpool Echo
I FANCIED Highland Lodge in the Becher Chase, so much so that I put him in my usual Saturday “life-changing” multiple bet. His 20/1 success was the only winner of the six, so life hasn’t changed… although the dream still lives on. The Becher Chase was a cracking spectacle and informative in several ways when pondering Crabbie’s Grand National implications.
The winner jumped like he loved the place and was a worthy winner. Formerly with Emma Lavelle, he was recently bought for £22,000 at the Doncaster Sales by the Cartmel-based yard of Jimmy Moffatt. Highland Lodge was thrown in on his best form, in fact he was 18lb lower than when he ran in the 2013 Welsh National for which he was strongly fancied but pulled up.
He will go up at least 12lb for his win, which should ensure he gets a run in April’s Crabbie’s Grand National. He is widely available at 50/1 although one bookie is going 66/1. That seems pretty generous.
Saint Are, who ran a huge race to be second to Many Clouds in this year’s National, ran respectably before tiring into seventh. He would not have relished the soft ground and if he gets his preferred sound surface in April he should run well again, although it’s difficult to see him turning the tables with Many Clouds. Saint Are remains available for 33/1 for the 2016 renewal.
Talking of Many Clouds, he ran a solid race in the Listed Chase at Aintree on Saturday when second to Don Poli and he looked as good as ever. He remains a clear ante-post favourite for the National at a widely available 16/1 and don’t forget that the maximum weight any horse can carry in 2016 is 11st 10lb, just a pound higher than he carried in 2015. If he gets to Aintree in tip-top shape I think he could be one of the strongest favourites for many years.
Goonyella was disappointing in the Becher, especially when you think he had his optimum ground. Some horses just don’t take to the place and maybe this was the case with Goonyella, although he would prefer a longer trip. Thunder and Roses also jumped sketchily before being pulled up while Algernon Pazham, who was quietly fancied by connections, jumped terribly until parting with his jockey. The 2014 National winner Pineau De Re got as far as the second fence.
Dare To Endeavour, Soll and Dolatulo all ran really well but it is hard to see any of the trio troubling the judge next April.