King of Stats: Are has the makings of a Saint in the Becher Chase

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The imposing Grand National fences get their first airing of the season this weekend with the Becher Chase looking a tricky nut to crack at Aintree.

As is the case with most large-field handicap chases certain patterns begin to emerge, and this race is no different as we look to put the trends to the test to pick out statistically the most likely winner.

And with the race relatively modern at 22 years old, we can crank the merits of every winner in the contest over the birch obstacles.

Looking at the stats it appears what you need is an well-campaigned, classy and in-form contender, with experience over the unique obstacles a distinct advantage.

To prove the point:

– 20 of the 22 winners finished in the first five in the previous start

– 18 of the 22 victors had at least 13 chase starts

– 17 of the 22 winners had previously won a Class 2 chase (or one that is of that standard now)

Interestingly applying all of those criteria to the 25 runners only throws up six that meet all three, with two of the 10/1 co-favourites Mendip Express and defending champion Chance Du Roy among those omitted.

And with 14 winners in the 22 years this race has been running previously having a spin over the National fences, we are drawn to focus on those with previous course knowledge.

The consistent Alfie Spinner (20/1) and the in-form Balbriggan (10/1) haven’t had an outing at Aintree in the past and are looked over in favour of one returning to familiar surroundings.

It appears the market normally gets it right in this contest as well with the average SP for victors just shy of 11/1, with only two winners in the race’s history going off at bigger than 14/1.

So with Mr Moonshine and Renard at 20/1 we are going to focus on the two more fancied by punters.

Of the two that are left Burton Port (16/1) is the eldest at 10-years-old and has competed at the highest level, finishing fourth in the 2012 Cheltenham Gold Cup.

He was well beaten on return in a five-runner affair at the Liverpool track, and with Jonjo O’Neil’s yard running in and out of form is nudged off top-spot on our shortlist.

But one that ticks all the boxes in relation to the big-race trends is SAINT ARE (12/1).

Tom George’s gelding was the last of nine finishes in the 2013 Grand National, so can clearly jump the big fences, though probably found the test of stamina too much for him.

He made an encouraging return in a competitive handicap at Cheltenham, and runs off the same lowly mark here.

The eight-year-old certainly has all the attributes of a Becher Chase winner.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Ben Stones

Ladbrokes News’ equine expert, Ben likes nothing more than studying the form to pick out a winner or two for our readers. A Journalism and Media Studies graduate from the University of Winchester, Ben has previously written for a number of football and racing blogs and websites, as well as contributing to the sports pages of his home-town newspaper.