Horse Racing: Previous winner too big to ignore for Becher Handicap

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WLB debutant and horse racing fanatic Josh Abley (@Josh_Abley) reviews a thrilling Fighting Fifth win for Buveur D'Air last weekend.

Saturday 8th December 2018 | 1:30 Aintree | ITV

The Becher Handicap Chase is the feature race of the season at Aintree this side of Christmas, and it looks set to be another superb renewal with multiple winners taking their place again.

From a punting perspective, I like to look for a horse who has prior experience over the unique National fences in races like this. It is a unique test that can take some getting used to and some trainers may be giving their horses a first spin over the obstacles with one eye on the National in April.

With multiple past winners of the race, and a dual Topham winner in there as well, there is a shortlist probably longer than usual. However, one did stand out at the prices.

Highland Lodge – at around 18/1 (Paddy Power) – looks a great each-way wager, especially with five paid places. He won this race in 2015 off a mark of 132 on soft ground and has been lightly raced since; this combined with him being pulled up in three of his last five runs suggest he is a tough horse to get right and probably explains his big price also.

The two times he has completed a race since that win however have been in this race in 2016 and 2017. He was beaten by Viex Lion Rouge by a short head a year after winning the race but, crucially, gets a 6lb pull at the weights this time around.

Moreover, he was beaten 14 lengths by Blaklion into third last year. That was a convincing defeat but the mount of Henry Brooke gets another 8lb from Blaklion here compared to last year and the ground for this year’s renewal is likely to be significantly less testing.

In an ideal world, Highland Lodge would have had a run prior to coming to Merseyside, in what would have been a similar preparation to when winning the race in 2015. However, the horse has made his seasonal reappearance in this race the last two years and has still ran very respectably.

Giving his record in the race, I would not be surprised to find out James Moffatt has targeted this race for and will have it fit. Hopefully with a bit of luck it goes close with his main rivals potentially needing the run more.

Best Bets

1:30 Aintree – Highland Lodge (18/1 each-way Paddy Power)

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