The Last Samuri tops weights for Becher test at Aintree

Highland Lodge and Henry Brooke jump the final fence as they win the Betfred Becher Chase at Aintree last year
Highland Lodge and Henry Brooke jump the final fence as they win the Betfred Becher Chase at Aintree last year

Grand National runner-up The Last Samuri heads the weights for the £140,000 Betfred Becher Chase over the famous fences at Aintree on December 3.

Trained by Kim Bailey, the eight-year-old was a creditable fifth on his comeback in the JNWine.com Champion Chase won by Valseur Lido at Down Royal earlier this month.

Should he run, he would shoulder 11st 12lb, but his owners Paul and Clare Rooney can also call on last weekend’s Haydock winner Three Faces West (11st), who is in the care of Philip Hobbs, as well as the Jennie Candlish-trained Beeves (10st 4lb).

Fellow owners Ann and Alan Potts look to have two leading contenders in Colin Tizzard’s recent Cheltenham winner Viconte Du Noyer (11st 7lb) and the Jim Dreaper-trained 2015 Irish Grand National third Sizing Coal (10st 3lb).

Last year’s winner Highland Lodge (Jimmy Moffatt, 10st 4lb) is on course to try to become the first back-to-back victor after his triumph from Dare To Endeavour (10st 2lb), who is in line to reoppose.

The latter is trained by Eric McNamara and was last seen finishing fifth in the Munster National at Limerick. He is one of 14 Irish possibles in total.

McNamara said: “The Becher Chase is Dare To Endeavour’s big target for the season. He schooled over fences this week and jumped super, so all being well he will be there.

“I thought he ran well at Limerick in a very competitive race, especially given the ground was quick enough for him.

“The big Aintree fences bring out the best in him and hopefully there will be a nice ease in the ground. The softer the ground the better really. If he gets that, we would be hoping for a really good run.

“We are hoping to get him high enough rated for the Randox Health Grand National this season and winning the Becher will obviously be a big help in that regard.

“He is that type of horse in that he is an exceptionally good jumper who stays well and we need to use that to bring out the best in him.”

Gordon Elliott’s six-strong team includes National sixth Ucello Conti (11st 1lb) and Cheltenham Festival scorer Empire Of Dirt (11st 4lb), while Mouse Morris’s trio features the last two winners of the Irish Grand National in Rogue Angel (10st 12lb) and Thunder And Roses (10st 11lb).

Other contenders include bet365 Gold Cup winner The Young Master (Neil Mulholland, 11st 3lb), Shutthefrontdoor (Jonjo O’Neill, 11st 1lb) and Firebird Flyer (Evan Williams, 10st 8lb), who landed the Midlands Grand National in March.

Betfred make Three Faces West their 8-1 favourite from The Last Samuri and The Young Master at 10-1.