Aintree Becher Chase Day: Race List & Meeting Info

There aren’t too many tracks more synonymous with the National Hunt game than the Merseyside venue of Aintree. That place in racing folklore is of course largely down to the most famous horse race in the world that is the Grand National, but it’s not all about the big one in April.

Providing an early taster of things to come further down the line is this excellent December offering, which regularly sees the fans flock to the track as the festive season begins. We have a bumper eight races on offer in all in this Saturday event, including not one, but two opportunities to see the runners tackling those famous Grand National fences; in both the Grand Sefton, and the Becher Chase which lends its name to this meeting.

 

Becher Chase Day Races

RaceGradeLengthPrize MoneyAges
Novices’ Hurdle Class 3 2m1f £12,000 4 Years Old +
Mares' Chase Listed 2m4f £25,000 4 Year Old + Fillies & Mares
Handicap Chase Class 3 2m4f £17,400 4 Years Old +
Handicap Hurdle Class 2 2m4f £30,000 4 Years Old +
Becher Handicap Chase Grade 3 3m2f £150,000 6 Years Old +
Fillies’ Juvenile Hurdle Listed 2m1f £25,000 3 Year Old Fillies
Many Clouds Chase Grade 2 3m1f £60,000 4 Years Old +
Grand Sefton Handicap Chase Class 2 2m5f £80,000 6 Years Old +

Novices’ Hurdle

Class 3, 2m1f

A Class 3 qualifier race, this is open to novice hurdlers aged four and over. It is run over two miles and two hundred and nine yards and there are nine hurdles to be jumped during that. With price money of more than £7,700 on offer, the race tends to last about four and a half minutes if the Going is Soft. The race is currently sponsored by Virgin Bet and is the opening race of Becher Chase Day at Aintree.

Mares' Chase

Listed, 2m4f

A Listed race that is restricted to mares aged four and over, the event is run over two miles, three furlongs and two hundred yards. It doesn’t tend to see the biggest field of the day, in spite of the £14,000 plus on offer in prize money. The Class 1 race features sixteen fences for the horses to jump, whilst if the Going is Soft you can expect it to last about five minutes and ten seconds.

Handicap Chase

Class 3, 2m4f

Another race on the day that is sponsored by Virgin Bet at the time of writing, this is a handicap offering that is run over fences. There are sixteen of them to be jumped during the two miles, three furlongs and two hundred yards of the event. Weights that the horses will carry are decided by the handicappers, with the race being open to horses aged four and over with a rating of between 0 and 135. It is a Class 3 Qualifier event and the prize money is in excess of £10,000.

Handicap Hurdle

Class 2, 2m4f

This race also has the weights for the horses decided by the handicappers, with the aim being to have all of the horses cross the finish line at the same time. That never happens, of course, not least of all because there are eleven hurdles for the competitors to cope with during the two miles and four furlongs of the race. The prize money is over £18,500, whilst the race is limited to horses aged four and over.

Becher Handicap Chase

Grade 3, 3m2f

There’s no question that the Becher Chase is the day’s big race, given that it’s named after it. This Grade 3 offering is open to horses aged six and over and is run left-handed over three miles, one furlong and one hundred and eighty-eight yards. It’s a handicap race so the weight carried by each horse is decided by the handicapper, whose job it is to try to and ensure the race is as fair as possible.

The Becher Chase is seen as a major trial for the Grand National, given that it’s run over the same fences as the main event. The difference is that in the National many of the fences are jumped twice, with horses having to negotiate thirty of them in total. For the Becher Chase only twenty-one of them are jumped, meaning it’s not an exact replica of the big race, but it’s still a stern test for horses to cope with.

At the time of writing only two horses have won this race and then gone on to be successful in the Grand National in the same season, namely Amberleigh House and Silver Birch. Earth Summit actually did it the other way around, winning the National in the April of 1998 and then this race later that year. It has been a Grade 3 offering since the National Hunt upgraded it in 2014.

The race itself was introduced in 1992 when a new race meeting was created for Aintree. For twenty years prior to that the Grand National meeting was the only one hosted by Aintree Racecourse, though things are different nowadays. The race is named in honour of Becher's Brook, which was itself named after Martin Becher, who took cover in the brook on the other side of the fence when his horse threw him into it.

Fillies’ Juvenile Hurdle

Listed, 2m1f

Coming after the feature race of the day is this hurdle event for female horses. It’s limited to those aged three and is a Class 1 Listed outing. Run over two miles and two hundred and nine yards, the event has nine hurdles to jump. The prize money is in excess of £14,000 and you can expect the race to last for about four and a half minutes if the Going is Soft.

Many Clouds Chase

Grade 2, 3m1f

The youngest of the three races we’re looking at in more detail, the Many Clouds Chase was first run in 2011. Back then it was a Listed race, receiving an upgrade to Grade 2 in 2017, which was also the point at which it was renamed in honour of the 2015 Grand National winner Many Clouds, who had won the race in 2016.

The race is run over three miles and one furlong, with nineteen fences that need to be jumped during that distance. The following weight information is worth knowing:

  • 4-year-olds: 10 stone 6 pounds
  • 5-year-olds+: 11 stone
  • Fillies and mares receive a 7 pound allowance
  • Group 1 and Group 2 race winners are given a 6 pound penalty
  • Group 3 race winners are given a 4 pound penalty
  • Novice and beginners chase winners are given half penalties

At the time of writing only one horse has won the race twice, which a horse with an appropriate name for Merseyside: Definitely Red. He was successful in 2017 and 2018 but didn’t do as well as hoped in the Grand National later in either season. Don Poli, meanwhile, won the 2015 RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival before winning this later in the year, whilst Many Clouds is the other noteworthy winner of the event.

Grand Sefton Handicap Chase

Class 2, 2m5f

This race was first run between 1865 and 1965 when Aintree Racecourse held an autumn meeting, taking place over just shy of three miles. It was seen as one of the most important races of the season, but in the wake of the Second World War Aintree’s fortunes were on the wane and people lost interest in the race. It was revived in 2003 and, as with the Becher Chase, was run over the same fences as the Grand National.

The race is open to horses aged six and up and is run over two miles, five furlongs and nineteen yards. As it is a handicap the weight is decided by the handicapper. There are eighteen fences than need to be negotiated before the race comes to its climax, meaning that it is just like the Becher Chase in the sense that it doesn’t use exactly the same fences as the Grand National, just some of them.

 

About Becher Chase Day

Aintree Racecourse Grandstand

Aintree is a world-famous racecourse, even though if you asked the majority of people to name a race that takes place on it other than the Grand National they’d struggle. That’s because the iconic steeplechase is beloved of those that are immersed in horse racing and those that only watch one race a year alike. Both sets of people delight in watching the best jumpers in the business take on one of the most difficult courses in existence, hoping that their selection makes it across the finish line first.

One thing that not everyone knows is that Aintree Racecourse actually plays host to a number of meetings throughout the year, with Becher Race Day being a notable one of them because of the fact that not one but two of the races featured are run over the same fences as the Grand National itself. It’s a chance to see how horses are looking as the jump season begins to get into its swing but a few months before they’ll have to jump the fences for real, so it’s a brilliant learning opportunity.