The David Pipe trained Vieux Lion Rouge ran a fantastic race to finish second in the Becher Chase at Aintree last weekend. Run over the national fences, he gave hope that he could be a contender yet again in the big race this season. He has run in the last three Grand National’s. His best performance was 6th behind One For Arthur in 2017, while he finished 7th in 2016 and 9th last season.
IF he goes for his fourth attempt there is every chance that this could be his last shot at the race. Based on what happened in the Becher Chase, he looks as good as ever and capable of running well again. If you want a reason to back Vieux Lion Rouge for the big one then it would have to be his experience over the big fences. He has six races under his belt over those obstacles. And that included a Becher Chase win back in 2016. He has always completed when running over them and is a foot perfect jumper. Which really helps his case and makes him stand out compared to some of the other potential Grand National runners in 2019.
Something we saw at the weekend was that the trip of three miles and two furlongs in the Becher Chase is far from ideal for this horse. He needs a stiffer test to be seen in an even better light. He was running on very nicely at the end of the race and made good ground. Unfortunately he could not get to the winner, who was a little too quick for him. Had the race been run over a longer distance, I am very confident that Vieux Lion Rouge would have come out on top.
The Grand National is over a distance of four miles and two furlongs. This is an extreme test of another mile on top of the Becher Chase distance. And as we have seen in the past Vieux Lion Rouge stays all day and will relish that additional distance.
Having said that, I don’t think we will see Vieux Lion Rouge over a similar distance until the day of the Grand National. He will be kept to races around three miles, maybe slightly further in an effort to keep his handicap mark around what it is now.
His three previous Grand National runs have been off 146, 149 and 150, and right now he is rated 147. If he is to have any chance at all of winning the Grand National when he is ten years old, then he cannot afford for his mark to go up much further. Otherwise, that will likely burden him with too much weight.
When it comes to the Grand National, jumping and staying is the name of the game. Something that Vieux Lion Rouge has proved time and time again around Aintree. His run in the Becher Chase last weekend was fantastic especially considering the distance was too short. Will he have a fighting chance once again in April?