Open Ditch, Height: 4ft 10in, Width: 7ft 6in
Arguably the most famous fence on the Grand National circuit, Becher’s Brook is one of Aintree’s most iconic obstacles and also one of its most feared.
While it stands 4ft 10in high, and so isn’t the loftiest of fences on the track, Becher’s features a ditch that is some 7ft 6in wide – meaning that the horses have to put in an almighty jump to ensure they don’t take a fall.
It’s an obstacle at which the jockeys must hold on tight and dig in to avoid being unseated too – the stats are testament to that!
History of Becher’s Brook
The fence takes its name from an incident that occurred at the very first Grand National way back in 1839.
Captain Martin Becher was riding Conrad in the maiden renewal of the steeplechase, and unfortunately the pair came a-cropper at the fence – Conrad rather unceremoniously dumping Becher in the brook, who took refuge in the water to avoid being trampled by other horses jumping behind him. He was later heard saying ‘water tastes disgusting without the benefits of whisky.’
After that, the obstacle was dubbed ‘Becher’s Brook’ – a name that has stuck to this day.
Typically one of the toughest fences on the National course, Aintree officials have tried to make it fairer in recent times. They have levelled out the steep landing side (around ten inches lower than take-off) a few times – most recently in 2011 – but the size of the ditch, as well as the fact that the horses have to take a left turn immediately after jumping, means that Becher’s Brook will remain one of the most difficult for years to come.
Famous Fallers at Becher’s Brook
In recent years, Becher’s has actually been less of a nightmare to jump than it has in previous years – perhaps due to Aintree’s efforts to level the stark drop-off upon landing.
The fence did cause havoc in 2018, however, when two well-backed horses – I Just Know and Houblon Des Obeaux – both fell in separate incidents.
Three market principles – The Young Master, Raz De Maree and Ucello Conti – also came unstuck here the year prior, while Synchronised, who had won the Cheltenham Gold Cup just a few weeks earlier, fell at Becher’s in 2012 with Tony McCoy on board. The Irishman would also be unseated here by Butler’s Cabin in 2008.
The 2011 edition saw four fallers at Becher’s on the first circuit, while in 2009 Silver Birch – the Grand National champion of two years prior – also took a tumble here.
In recent memory, the most chaos caused by Becher’s came in 2004. Ten of the 40-strong field exited the race here, with nine of them falling, brought down, unseating their jockey or refusing here on the first circuit….including joint-favourite Bindaree and former champion jockey Richard Johnson aboard What’s Up Boys.