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  • 13:35 Betfred Becher Handicap Chase 3m 1f 188y

  • (Grade 3) (National Course) £140,000 added 6yo+ 22 ran
  • Winner £78,582 2nd £29,554 3rd £14,770 4th £7,378
  • Going: Good to Soft (Soft in places)
  • Surface: Turf
  • Winning time: 6m 51.20s
  • Off time: 13:38:14

The Last Samuri tops cracking 24 in Becher

Last Updated: 01/12/16 3:18pm

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The Last Samuri leads the Grand National field over the last fence.

The Last Samuri leads the Grand National field over the last fence.

Grand National runner-up The Last Samuri heads a field of 24 for the Betfred Becher Handicap Chase at Aintree on Saturday.

Kim Bailey's charge was beaten six lengths by Rule The World in the main event last year and having finished fifth in a Down Royal Grade One on his seasonal return, The Last Samuri returns to the National fences this time.

Last year's winner Highland Lodge bids for back-to-back successes in the race for Jimmy Moffatt, with Henry Brooke taking the ride again after completing his comeback from injury with a ride at Catterick on Wednesday.

Moffatt, who is based at Cartmel in Cumbria, said: "It is all systems go with Highland Lodge and I am very happy with him. He has done all his work now and we are just keeping him fresh for Saturday.

"When he won last year, he had already had a couple of runs for Emma (Lavelle) earlier in the season and had been on the horse walker since October 15.

"He had a level of fitness last year whereas this time he has had a nice, gradual run - he has been in full-training since the middle of July and the Betfred Becher Handicap Chase has been the plan.

"He has run well fresh in the past and has also been called a few names! He has done two serious two and a half mile gallops on the grass. He hasn't been on track but that has been on purpose as we have lovely big fields here we can work him around.

"The mistake I made with him last year after his Becher win when I was prepping him for the National was when I gave him a workout at Haydock. He worked exceptionally well that day and I had it in my mind after the Scottish National that he may have left his race behind there. There is no hiding place on track and if we are right, we are right and if we are wrong, we are wrong.

"It was soft ground when he won last year and obviously we would like conditions to be replicated as much as possible. But if you dip back in his form he had run some good races on good ground, including when he was fourth in the Hennessy."

No horse has ever won back-to-back renewals with the only dual scorer Hello Bud recording non-consecutive victories in 2010 and 2012.

Gordon Elliott's Ucello Conti finished sixth in the Grand National and has been prominent in the Becher ante-post market for the last few days, while Alvarado is another who is already familiar with the Aintree fences, having claimed fourth in the 2015 National for Fergal O'Brien.

Mouse Morris runs the 2016 Irish National victor Rogue Angel, with Jim Dreaper's Sizing Coal, Portrait King from Patrick Griffin's yard and the Eric McNamara-trained Dare To Endeavour making up a strong Irish raiding party.

Colin Tizzard has found a rich vein of form in Saturday races and recent Cheltenham score Viconte Du Noyer will try to extend the teams winning run on his first attempt over the National fences.

Last year's bet365 Gold Cup winner The Young Master is another notable contender for Neil Mulholland, while Alan King has two starters in Ziga Boy and Midnight Prayer.

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