Unioniste tops 27 confirmations for Aintree’s Betfred Becher Chase

Top-weight Unioniste (11st 12lb, Paul Nicholls, 10/1 with Betfred) is on course for the £140,000 Betfred Becher Handicap Chase (1.40pm, 27 confirmations) over three and a quarter miles at Aintree on Betfred Becher Chase Community Day, Saturday, December 5. The Grade Three handicap is the first of two races over the famous Grand National fences on the day.

Trained by Paul Nicholls and owned by John Hales, Unioniste was fancied for this year’s Crabbie’s Grand National after an impressive victory at Sandown Park in January and a good third to Coneygree the following month, but got no further than the fifth fence.

The seven-year-old has not run since coming home eighth behind stablemate Just A Par in the bet365 Gold Cup over nearly three miles and five furlongs at Sandown Park in April.

Hales, whose colours were carried to victory by Neptune Collonges in the 2012 Crabbie’s Grand National, said today: “Unioniste is a definite runner in the Betfred Becher Chase.

“It will be his first run of the season and we want to give him some more experience over the Grand National fences. He was too wired up and on top of himself when he came down in the National.

“I think it is important to give him another go over them. He looks a natural for the Grand National, given his breeding and everything, and hopefully he will have a good experience at the weekend. It is not necessarily about winning, we just want him to have a clear round and enjoy himself.

“Aintree in April is the aim again and I can see him having possibly three runs between now and then.”

The 2016 Crabbie’s Grand National, worth £1 million, takes place on Saturday, April 9.

Unioniste is 10/1 co second favourite of four with the sponsor for the Betfred Becher Handicap Chase.

The market is headed by Irish raiders Goonyella (11st 4lb, Jim Dreaper) and Heathfield (10st 5lb, Tony Martin) at 8/1. Both horses were in excellent form in the spring, with Goonyella capturing the Midlands National and Heathfield landing competitive handicaps at Navan and the Punchestown Festival.

A strong Irish challenge is also likely to feature Thunder And Roses (11st 1lb, Sandra Hughes, 10/1), winner of the Irish Grand National in April, and bet365 Gold Cup runner-up Vics Canvas (11st 2lb, Dermot McLoughlin, 12/1).

The home team includes 2015 Crabbie’s Grand National runner-up Saint Are (11st 2lb, Tom George, 10/1) and progressive six-year-old Algernon Pazham (10st 10lb, 10/1), who is bidding to give trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies a sixth victory in the race. The 2014 Crabbie’s Grand National hero Pineau De Re (10st 9lb, Dr Richard Newland, 12/1) is also still engaged.

Betfred spokesman Andrew Griffiths said: “Stamina will be the order of the day at Aintree and two dour stayers head our betting for the Betfred Becher.

“The handicapper knows all about Goonyella, so it could be Heathfield who captures the punters’ imagination with just 10st 5lb on his back.”

25 go forward in Betfred Grand Sefton Chase

The second contest over the Grand National fences on Betfred Becher Chase Community Day is the £70,000 Betfred Grand Sefton Handicap Chase (3.20pm) over two miles and five furlongs.

There are 25 confirmations for this contest, with the weights headed by Rocky Creek (11st 12lb, Paul Nicholls, 12/1 with Betfred), who has competed in the last two runnings of the Crabbie’s Grand National, faring best when fifth in 2014.

The 8/1 joint-favourites with Betfred are Bennys Mist (10st 4lb, Venetia Williams), who was third in the 2014 renewal and runner-up in the 2014 Crabbie’s Topham Chase, and Double Ross (11st 5lb, Nigel Twiston-Davies), twice a Grade Three winner at Cheltenham.

There are four potential Irish challengers, headed by Valseur Lido (11st 9lb, Willie Mullins, 12/1), a dual Grade One winner as a novice last season, recent Hennessy Gold Cup third First Lieutenant (10st 13lb, Mouse Morris, 16/1), last season’s Crabbie’s Topham Chase sixth Art Of Logistics (10st 6lb, Sandra Hughes, 16/1) and Dromnea (Mouse Morris, 10st 3lb, 12/1), a useful novice last season.

Many Clouds set for Aintree return

The 2015 Crabbie’s Grand National hero Many Clouds (Oliver Sherwood) features among 11 entries for the £40,000 Listed Betfred Lotto ‘£100k Cash Giveaway’ Chase (2.15pm) over just short of three miles and a furlong on the Mildmay Course.

The eight-year-old, who was sixth on his seasonal reappearance in the Grade Two Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby on October 31, could face opposition from multiple Graded scorer Menorah (Philip Hobbs) and Irish challenger Don Poli (Willie Mullins), winner of the Grade One RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival last year.

Other interesting contenders include recent Betfair Chase third Dynaste (David Pipe), The Druids Nephew (Neil Mulholland), who was travelling well when falling at Valentine’s on the second circuit in last season’s Crabbie’s Grand National and 2013 Topham Chase and Hennessy Gold Cup victor Triolo D’Alene (Nicky Henderson).

The seven-race card on Betfred Becher Chase Community Day runs from 12.00pm through to 3.20pm.


The going at Aintree is currently:

Mildmay Course – Soft, Heavy in places
Hurdle Course – Soft
National Course – Soft, Heavy in places

Andrew Tulloch, Regional Head of Racing, Jockey Club Racecourse North West & Clerk of the Course at Aintree, said: “We are forecast rain tonight and again tomorrow, while conditions are predicted to become drier and warmer from Wednesday onwards.

“The National course is in great nick at the moment – the only thing we are slightly struggling with is the wind but that is expected to fall away by the middle of the week.

“The ground here at Aintree dries very well and a couple of dry days later in the week could see it quicken slightly ahead of Saturday.”

The Betfred Becher Handicap Chase
Grade 3, £140,000 total prize fund. Saturday, December 5, 3m 1f 188y (over the Grand National Course). Penalties: after November 22, a winner of a chase 3lb; no penalty to increase a horse’s weight above 11st 12lb. Entries closed November 17, entries revealed November 18 (47 entries), weights revealed November 25, five-day confirmations November 30 (27 confirmations), final declarations December 3. Maximum field size 30 (plus two reserves).

Horse Age Wgt Owner Trainer
UNIONISTE (FR) 7 11-12 John Hales Paul Nicholls
GOONYELLA (IRE) 8 11-04 Ann & Alan Potts Partnership Jim Dreaper IRE
SAINT ARE (FR) 9 11-02 D W Fox Tom George
VICS CANVAS (IRE) 12 11-02 Bodeen Bandits Partnership Dermot McLoughlin IRE
THUNDER AND ROSES (IRE) 7 11-01 Gigginstown House Stud Sandra Hughes IRE
MON PARRAIN (FR) 9 11-01 David Maxwell Paul Nicholls
THE ROMFORD PELE (IRE) 8 11-01 Trembath & Outhart Rebecca Curtis
FIRST LIEUTENANT (IRE) 10 11-01 Gigginstown House Stud Mouse Morris IRE
DOLATULO (FR) 8 11-00 Chasemore Farm Warren Greatrex
SOLL 10 10-13 Derrick Mossop David Pipe
ALGERNON PAZHAM (IRE) 6 10-10 Graham and Alison Jelley Nigel Twiston-Davies
PINEAU DE RE (FR) 12 10-09 John Provan Dr Richard Newland
SHUIL ROYALE (IRE) 10 10-07 Phil Fry Harry Fry
ARDKILLY WITNESS (IRE) 9 10-07 The Cherry Pickers Jamie Snowden
SILVER MAN 8 10-05 John Wardle Jo Hughes
NO PLANNING 8 10-05 Jacqueline Conroy Sue Smith
HEATHFIELD (IRE) 8 10-05 J P McManus Tony Martin IRE
GODSMEJUDGE (IRE) 9 10-03 Favourites Racing Ltd David Dennis
BUACHAILL ALAINN (IRE) 8 10-03 Roddy Owen & Paul Fullagar Peter Bowen
DARE TO ENDEAVOUR 8 10-02 Aidan J Ryan Eric McNamara IRE
BOB FORD (IRE) 8 10-01 The JJ Partnership Rebecca Curtis
PORTRAIT KING (IRE) 10 10-00 Douglas Pryde Patrick Griffin IRE
HARRY THE VIKING 10 9-11 Jim Beaumont, Douglas Pryde & Quona Thomson Sandy Thomson
COWARDS CLOSE (IRE) 8 9-11 David Henery Chris Gordon
FOXBRIDGE (IRE) 9 9-09 Walters Plant Hire Spiers & Hartwell Nigel Twiston-Davies
HIGHLAND LODGE (IRE) 9 9-07 Bowes Lodge Stables James Moffatt
FINANCIAL CLIMATE (IRE) 8 9-06 Sara Fillery & Friends Oliver Sherwood

27 confirmations
7 Irish-trained

Betfred Becher Handicap Chase – Betfred bet: 8/1 Goonyella, Heathfield; 10/1 Algernon Pazham, Saint Are, Thunder And Roses, Unioniste; 12/1 Pineau de Re, Vics Canvas; 14/1 Foxbridge; 16/1 First Lieutenant, No Planning, Shuil Royale, Silver Man, Soll; 20/1 Dolatulo; 25/1 Ardkilly Witness, Buachaill Alainn, Cowards Close, Harry The Viking, Mon Parrain, The Romford Pele; 33/1 Bob Ford, Financial Climate, Godsmejudge, Highland Lodge, Portrait King; 50/1 Dare To Endeavour.

¼ 1-2-3-4

The Betfred Grand Sefton Handicap Chase
£70,000 total prize fund. Saturday, December 5, 2m 5f 19y (over the Grand National Course). Penalties: after November 22, a winner of a chase 3lb; no penalty to increase a horse’s weight above 11st 12lb. Entries closed November 17, entries revealed November 18 (42 entries – 1 subsequently scratched), weights revealed November 25, five-day confirmations November 30 (25 confirmations), final declarations December 4. Maximum field size 25.

Horse Age Wgt Owner Trainer
ROCKY CREEK (IRE) 9 11-12 The Johnson & Stewart Families Paul Nicholls
VALSEUR LIDO (FR) 6 11-09 Gigginstown House Stud Willie Mullins IRE
COCKTAILS AT DAWN 7 11-05 Robin Geffen & Sir John Ritblat Nicky Henderson
DOUBLE ROSS (IRE) 9 11-05 Options O Syndicate Nigel Twiston-Davies
FIRST LIEUTENANT (IRE) 10 10-13 Gigginstown House Stud Mouse Morris IRE
FAGO (FR) 7 10-13 Andrea & Graham Wylie Paul Nicholls
SEVENTH SKY (GER) 8 10-12 John Heron Charlie Mann
POOLE MASTER 10 10-10 G Thompson David Pipe
OPENING BATSMAN (IRE) 9 10-09 The Twelfth Man Partnership Harry Fry
RATHLIN 10 10-09 Masters Of The Hall 2 Micky Hammond
ART OF LOGISTICS (IRE) 7 10-06 Munnelly Support Services Ltd Sandra Hughes IRE
SILVER ROQUE (FR) 9 10-06 Lord Vestey Fergal O’Brien
ARDKILLY WITNESS (IRE) 9 10-05 The Cherry Pickers Jamie Snowden
BENNYS MIST (IRE) 9 10-04 Mezzone Family Venetia Williams
DROMNEA (IRE) 8 10-03 Mrs A M Daly Mouse Morris IRE
RENARD (FR) 10 10-03 ROA Arkle Partnership Venetia Williams
WITNESS IN COURT (IRE) 8 10-03 Tim Leslie Donald McCain
ASTRACAD (FR) 9 10-02 Caroline Mould Nigel Twiston-Davies
AL ALFA 8 9-11 James Drummond Philip Hobbs
MWALESHI 10 9-11 Sue Smith Sue Smith
DISTIME (IRE) 9 9-09 Mrs J Drake Richard Drake
BENEFIT CUT (IRE) 9 9-07 Asphalt R S Ltd & Terence Jenner Stuart Edmunds
TOP CAT HENRY (IRE) 7 9-05 Off The Clock Partners & Dr Richard Newland Dr Richard Newland
THE ITALIAN YOB (IRE) 7 9-04 The Macaroni Beach Society Nick Williams
ROUGE ET BLANC (FR) 10 9-02 Oliver Sherwood & Tim Syder Oliver Sherwood

25 confirmations
4 Irish-trained

Betfred Grand Sefton Handicap Chase – sponsors bet: 8/1 Bennys Mist, Double Ross; 12/1 Dromnea, Poole Master, Rocky Creek, Valseur Lido; 14/1 Opening Batsman; 16/1 Ardkilly Witness, Art of Logistics, Renard, Seventh Sky, Top Cat Henry; 20/1 Al Alfa, Benefit Cut, Cocktails At Dawn, Distime, Fago, First Lieutenant, Rathlin; 25/1 Astracad, Mwaleshi, Rouge Et Blanc, Silver Roque, The Italian Yob; 33/1 Witness In Court.

¼ 1-2-3-4

Spread the Christmas Cheer at Betfred BeCheer Day
Betfred will be spreading the Christmas Cheer by giving away some great prizes. Win the chance to join the sponsors in the parade ring to judge the best turned out horse award and racegoers could win a £100 free bet and be in with a chance of taking home a pocket full of cash.

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