Past Winners » Beshabar


The four-miler at Cheltenham could hold the key to the Scottish Grand National this year. Chicago Grey beat Beshabar by four and a half lengths in the National Hunt Chase, but the bookmakers may have erred in putting Chicago Grey in at as short as 4/1 in places for Saturday’s race, and leaving Beshabar at 7/1.

There are reasons for believing that Beshabar can turn the Cheltenham form around. For starters, he gets 5lb from Gordon Elliott’s horse, which is always welcome. On top of that, Chicago Grey got the perfect ride and the perfect run of the race at Cheltenham. Derek O’Connor never left the inside rail, not once. When he needed a gap, he got it, when he needed a jump, he got it. It was a hell of a ride, one of the rides of the meeting, but it was one of those rides for which everything dropped right. Not that Beshabar didn’t get the run of the race, but he generally races handily whereas Chicago Grey liked to be held up, and it would be unrealistic to expect that the grey horse will get as smooth a passage on Saturday as he got at Cheltenham.

On top of that, although Beshabar is a year older, he has much more scope for progression than Chicago Grey. He has only raced 10 times in his life, the Cheltenham race was just his third run of the season and just his fourth over fences, and it is reasonable to expect that he will come on appreciably for it. Chasers tend to improve quite significantly after their fourth or fifth or sixth run over fences. By contrast, Chicago Grey has now run 10 times over fences and 10 times this season. He did have a break before Cheltenham, but he had been on the go before that effectively since last July. He is good, but we probably know exactly how good he is now, and he may not have much in hand of the handicapper.

They had met before in a three-mile novices’ chase at Cheltenham in November, when Chicago Grey fell at the second last and, ironically, brought down Beshabar just as both of them were staying on. An early mistake had knocked Beshabar back a bit, but he was starting to stay on, and it is impossible to know which of them would have come out on top.

Other small factors. Chicago Grey loves Cheltenham, three of his four races before the National Hunt Chase were at Cheltenham, and he had run really well each time. Now they are back on a level playing pitch in that neither of them have run at Ayr. Also, Paul Carberry replaces Derek O’Connor, one of the best amateur riders in the business, on Chicago Grey, Richard Johnson replaces Tom David on Beshabar. It is probable that the greatest net gain in terms of assistance from the saddle lies with Beshabar.

Leaving aside the re-match with Chicago Grey for a second, Beshabar has a lot in his favour. As above, he is highly progressive, he has the potential to be significantly better than his handicap rating of 146. At its base level, he was rated 149 over hurdles, so he probably has at least 3lb in hand, possibly a lot more, and he has a lovely racing weight of 10st 4lb. He is a dour galloper, we know he stays four miles, and he will be well suited by the true test of stamina that the Scottish National invariably presents. He generally races handily, just behind the pace, which is the ideal position for a race like this, he likes good ground, and it is easy to see him going well. He is worth backing at 7/1.

Obviously this is not a two-horse race, although it does help that only 10 of the 47 entries at this stage are set to race off their correct handicap marks. Always Right is very interesting, he was impressive in winning the Grimthorpe Chase last time at Doncaster, idling when left in front and value for a lot more than the head winning margin. He is progressive. However, he is up 9lb for that, plus he will be 3lb out of the handicap if top weight Neptune Collonges stands his ground – which is apparently the plan at present with AP McCoy booked – so he will be 12lb up for beating Lothian Falcon by a head, which appears harsh. He is only one point bigger than Beshabar in the market, and that is short. He just may lack Beshabar’s class.