Joe’s Jottings – Cheltenham Antepost Tip

Vinndication wins the Noel Chase at Ascot

A race that currently interests me from an ante-post perspective is the RSA Chase. Won last year by current Gold Cup favourite Presenting Percy, the market for this year’s renewal is headed by the Nicky Henderson trained Santini. This son of Milan missed his engagement in the Reynoldstown Chase at Ascot on Saturday, however, and although there is no doubt he has the ability to feature – his lack of chasing experience would have to be a major concern for his backers. And for that reason, I think he has to be opposed at his current price. View our ITV Racing Tips page for selections on the build-up to the Festival, including free tips for all the action this weekend.

Paul Nicholls enjoyed a red-letter day last Saturday – landing a 45,863/1 across the card eight-timer – and he is represented here by Topofthegame. A useful hurdler who was beaten just a neck into second in the Coral Cup, this seven-year-old has occupied the runner-up berth in both of his starts over fences this season. He actually had market leader Santini behind in the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton when last seen in December. That form has worked out well since, with the winner La Bague Au Roi subsequently landing a Grade 1 at Leopardstown, but he – like Santini – has not been seen since that Boxing Day contest, and the lack of a recent run, combined with the fact that he is yet to win a race over fences, would be enough for me to pass him over.

Irish-trained horses have done well in this contest in recent years, and the smart Delta Work looks their main hope here. This Gigginstown-owned son of Network has won all three of his starts over fences to date, with the last two successes coming in Grade 1 company. He also has course form, having landed the Pertemps Final at the Festival last season. He looks sure to be popular with punters, but I would be questioning the strength of the form of the races that he has won over fences. At first glance, his win in the Drinmore Chase at Fairyhouse looks strong, with the second Le Richebourg winning his next two starts, but of the five horses to have finished behind the front two that day – not one has won since. His latest win at Leopardstown has worked out even worse, with the second Mortal failing to beat a rival home in his subsequent outing, and the third Blow By Blow finishing pulled up, and then beaten eighty-five lengths, in his next two runs.

My selection is the Kim Bailey trained Vinndication. This six-year-old was a classy hurdler last season who beat the likes of Champ and Western Ryder. He missed the Festival last season due to sore shins but returned to action at Carlisle in November – where he stayed on well over 2m4f to make a winning chasing debut. A Grade 2 success at Ascot followed, but he lost his unbeaten record when third in the Scilly Isles Chase at Sandown last time out. He seemed to get outpaced at a crucial stage there before staying on strongly to finish just over three lengths behind the winner Defi Du Seuil. That run suggested that a step up in trip was required, and his pedigree is laden with stamina, so the extra yardage on offer in this contest looks sure to eke out some improvement from him. His connections claimed earlier in the season that this race was his Festival target, and as long as the ground was not to turn up lightning quick on the day of the race – I would expect him to put up a bold showing.

Tip Advised

VINNDICATION – 20/1 RSA Novices’ Chase

Already Advised

CITY ISLAND – 10/1 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle

DYNAMITE DOLLARS – Arkle Novices’ Chase

N/A (Out for the season)

THOMAS DARBY – 20/1 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

FOX NORTON – 14/1 Ryanair Chase

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