David Pipe reports Vieux Lion Rouge to be in prime condition ahead of his attempt to win at the Randox Health Becher Chase at Aintree on Saturday.
Not only did the eight-year-old lift this decent prize last season, he also won the Grand National Trial at Haydock in February and went on to finish sixth in the big race itself back at Liverpool in April.
Those fine performances have resulted in him now being 10lb higher.
Pipe expects Vieux Lion Rouge to be all the sharper for his seasonal reappearance at Wetherby when he was fourth to Bristol De Mai in the Charlie Hall Chase.
“Vieux Lion Rouge will bid to follow up his fantastic Becher Chase success of 12 months ago over three miles and two furlongs of the Grand National fences,” the Pond House handler told www.davidpipe.com.
“He is in good order following his seasonal debut in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby and he has pleased me at home since.
“For whatever reason, he seems to jump the Aintree fences particularly well and we will be hoping for the best.
“Obviously it is a tough ask from a 10lb higher mark than last year, but he will be still be going when others have cried enough.”
The Last Samuri was only beaten a length in third place last December and is set to take on Vieux Lion Rouge again, although his trainer Kim Bailey believes the nine-year-old has a stiff task.
“He’s rated 159, which is a huge hike from where he started, but he deserves to be there. He’s run consistently well all the way through his career,” Bailey told ATR’s On The Line programme.
“The hard part is he’s just not a big horse to carry big weights. He’s not good enough for Graded races, we’ve tried it before. There is gap between the two sticks and he’s going to end up running in races like this with top-weight whether we like it or not.”