This week’s major contest at Aintree sees a high quality field lining up to tackle the most famous fences in the game. Becher’s Brook, The Chair, Valentines and more all feature in this year’s Becher Handicap Chase. Always a thrilling winter spectacle, who will come out on top in 2017?

Race Analysis

Last year’s winner Vieux Lion Rouge is prominent in the betting once again this time around as he returns to defend his crown. He didn’t quite see out the trip as well as connections would have hoped when sixth in the Grand National itself, but may be a more potent force dropping back in trip here. Having completed the course on all three attempts over the Grand National fences, he at least looks as safe a conveyance as any around here, but on the downside is now fully 10lbs higher than for that short head triumph 12 months ago.

Strictly on ratings, last year’s second and third placed finishers are weighted to turn the tables with Vieux Lion Rouge here. The Last Samuri finds himself 10lbs better off for being beaten just over a length in third, whilst Highland Lodge is fully 9lbs better off for going down by just a short head. Runner up in the National in 2015, The Last Samuri ran a storming race to finish second on his seasonal comeback over hurdles and looks primed to go well. Highland Lodge meanwhile will be making his seasonal reappearance here, but that was also the case last year so he can go well fresh.

Another with rock solid form over the fences is last season’s Grand National fourth Blaklion. There isn’t much of this diminutive sort, but he is tough and tenacious and as a previous Grade 1 winner, he certainly possesses the class to get involved. At around the 4/1 mark though, he looks a little on the short side for a race in which luck in running can play a major role.

Paul Nicholl’s looks to possess a potent dual threat here in the form of Scottish National winner, Vicente, and the seven year old As De Mee. Vicente is thoroughly proven in these marathon events and ran a screamer to be second on his seasonal return when a fast finishing second to Perfect Candidate in the Betvictor.com Handicap Chase at Cheltenham. His only previous experience of these fences didn’t go all that well though as he came down at the first in last season’s Grand National. As De Mee on the other hand does jump these fences well, having completed on all three attempts so far including when winning the Grand Sefton last year. He is 4lbs higher than his career high winning mark, but may have a little improvement left in him yet.

Betting Tips

This has all the makings of a cracker but the one we like best is 2015 winner Highland Lodge. Always targeted at this race, he looked a little unlucky not to score last year, gets a nice pull in the weights with his conqueror and goes well on the likely soft ground. Get on each way at 16/1 with Coral.