RSA Chase (Grade 1)
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Taking place on Day 2 of Cheltenham Festival (Wednesday 15th March 2017), the three mile RSA Novices’ Chase is a Grade 1 often seen as a trial for potential Gold Cup horses. Horses’ carry 11 stone 4lb (five year olds receive a two pound allowance and mares receive seven pounds) over the 19 fences.
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The betting trends for the RSA Chase worth following are as follows:
- 9 of the last 10 winners had at least 3 runs chasing.
- 10 of the previous 10 winners had recorded a top chasing RacingPost Rating (RPR) of 150.
- 10 of the previous 10 winners had at least placed in a Grade 1 or Grade 2 Chase race already.
- 9 of those 10 had won a Grade 1 or Grade 2 Chase.
- 9 of the last 10 finished 1st or 2nd in their last start before the RSA Chase (the other two finished third)
- 8 of the previous 10 winners had won over 2 miles 5 furlongs or further.
- 7 of the last 10 had won over 2 miles 7 furlongs or further.
- Only 4 of the last 10 winners were 150+ rated hurdlers although all had marks.
Only one trainer has won this race twice in the last 10 years and it’s the usual subject – Willie Mullins (2009 & 2015). Barry Geraghty, A P McCoy and Davy Russell are the leading jockeys in the last 10 years with 2 wins.
Trends Analysis: Experience comes to the fore with in the trends for the RSA Chase, with chasing experience and a Grade 1 or 2 win being a common trait among the last 10 winners. Perhaps surprising that given the number of last time out winners and the amount of experience the winners have, only 7 of the last 10 have won over 2 miles 7 furlongs or further; don’t rule out horses with no 3 mile experience, even with the Cheltenham hill to contend with.
The RSA Chase has often been used by trainers to give new and high potential chasers their first real taste of festival racing. Future Gold Cup winners like Denman and Bobs Worth began their Cheltenham victory trail with wins in the RSA, before moving up into the bigger races. The three mile trip is difficult and requires a lot of stamina, so it’s not surprising there have been plenty of shocks down the years. Don Poli’s win in 2015 was the first time the favourite had come out on top in seven years, with previous winners’ odds ranging from 9/2 to 16/1.
The current antepost favourite and five points clear of the others, Bellshill has won both his races thus far as a chaser and is most likely a worthy favourite for the race. He showed immediate promise as a hurdler last season, and despite a poor showing in the Supreme Novices at Chletenham due to some sticky jumps, he made amends when a close 2nd in the Sefton Novices Hurdle at Aintree, running on well but just headed in the final strides. He’s taken well to fences winning both his runs so far, including a Grade 2 at Limerick on Boxing Day. Those runs were at around 2m 4f and the step up to 3 miles would almost certainly bring out even further improvement as he’s performed best at that distance, with his ground versatility also taking away another question mark. He is a worthy favourite at present and his step up to 3 miles before the Festival is eagerly awaited as it should bring out even more class from this already well regarded 7 year old.
A major improver on his second run over fences was Our Duke, who despite jumping poorly on occasions ran on strongly to beat Coney Island in a Grade 1 at Leopardstown in December. That effort was extremely taking as the engine that he seems to have is quite remarkable, as he should not have been entitled to win with how poorly he jumped. Although he was able to get away with it on that occasion, he will not be so lucky around Prestbury Park, as the fences are not forgiving and many of the mistakes he made in that race would have proved much more than costly around Cheltenham. He’ll need to brush up on it before the race but if he does, he has to have a good chance as he clearly has stamina in abundance and a devastating turn of foot. From what we have seen so far he will need softer ground which may be an issue come March, but he has to be considered a main contender on the basis of his two runs thus far.
Improving with every run, Might Bite announced himself as a main contender when winning with the makings of a very promising novice at Doncaster on his third chasing start. Upped in trip he showed even more class and had the race at his mercy at Kempton in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase when falling at the final fence, 18 lengths clear at the time. It was a heavy fall and it would be hoped that it hasn’t dented his confidence in any way, but regardless of it the way he was about to win the race that day was impressive and has to put him firmly into the picture. A horse who will need better ground to show his best, the drop back to 2m 4f would not be an issue with successes at that distance previously and he also handles Cheltenham which was evidenced in a smooth success over C&D over hurdles in 2015. Nicky Henderson will be bidding to win his third RSA chase with Trabolgan and Bob’s Worth successes in years previous, and looks to have a good chance again with this 8 year old gelding.
Although behind Our Duke in there latest duel, Coney Island did himself no discredit when narrowly being denied at Leopardstown. Already a Grade 1 winner when shaping nicely at Fairyhouse in the Drinmore Novice Chase, this 6 year old for Edward Harty is proving himself to be quite the smart chaser, improving on all starts to date. Raced exclusively in Ireland thus far, he is versatile in terms of ground and the trip will be no problem as he has won at 2 miles and 3 miles in the past. The RSA is a race where stamina will definitely be called into question and he has it in abundance, with the unforgiving Cheltenham hill a likely positive for him, so has to be considered for Each Way placing at the very least.
It is hard to get away from how impressive Politologue was in dismantling the opposition at Ascot in a Grade 2 in December, jumping well all the way round and despite idling in the closing stages, he made all with the minimum of fuss. That was his second chase win from two starts and he is likely to still have improvement left in him, as we haven’t seen what he can do when fully asked for his effort. A concern however would be his two previous visits to Cheltenham which have not gone to plan, albeit over hurdles and he has certainly improved markedly since those efforts. Regardless, he does need to prove he is suited by Cheltenham and is also yet to win a Grade 1, so it will be interesting to see if he can continue his impressive sequence when put into the top class of company. At a best priced 20/1 when writing, he is a good Each Way candidate at this stage and should be intently watched on the run up to the Festival for the champion trainer Paul Nicholls.
The joint leading trainer in terms of wins Willie Mullins as always has a lively contender in the mix, with Benie Des Dieux looking like his most interesting candidate. For the familiar connections of Mullins and the Riccis, he was a decent enough hurdler in France when with Mlle Gallorini and made the perfect start to life in Ireland when winning a mare’s beginners chase at Limerick by 30 lengths, not extended. She jumped well throughout, quickening clear with the minimum of effort and although it is easy to question the merit of that form, it was a her Irish debut and she can only improve. This is the type of horse that these connections excel with and she is likely to be a very smart mare in the making, with the main concern at present being the ground as she’ll need it as soft as possible judging on previous evidence in France. Either way, there is almost certainly more to come from this 6 year old mare and with her stamina all but assured with that victory in heavy conditions, she has to be considered a main contender.
There are currently 55 runners in the RSA Chase at the initial entries stage:
- Acapella Bourgeois
- A Genie In Abottle
- All Hell Let Loose
- Alpha Des Obeaux
- Amore Alato
- Arbre De Vie
- As De mee
- A Toi Phil
- Aux Ptits Soins
- Balko Des Flos
- Belami Des Pictons
- Bellow Mome
- Bleu Et Rouge
- Briar Hill
- Champers On Ice
- Childrens List
- Coney Island
- Dark Flame
- Emerging Force
- General Principle
- Heron Heights
- Ibis Du Rheu
- Label Des Obeaux
- Martello Tower
- Might Bite
- O O Seven
- Our Kaempfer
- Prince Of Scars
- Road To Respect
- Rock The Kasbah
- Royal Vacation
- Shantou Village
- Theo’s Charm
- Tiger Roll
- Uncle Danny
- Vintage Clouds
- Calett Mad
- Chic Name
- Briery Belle