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There are just 67 days until the start of the Cheltenham Festival 2013 and, in time honoured tradition, you’ll find a hatful of tips and previews, as well as full day by day analysis, here at Geegeez.
Following on from our Champion Hurdle preview, let’s now look at the RSA Chase 2013, the staying championship for novice chasers.
Let’s start by taking a look at the main trends for RSA Chase, some of which are surprisingly strong and lean away from the top of the market. Using the excellent horseracebase big race analysis tool, I’ve looked at the last fifteen years to draw the following inferences.
First of all, while all bar one of the last fifteen RSA Chase winners finished first or second on their final completed start (eight winners and six runners up), only four winners were sent off market leader, and only two more were sent off as second favourite.
Indeed, six of the fifteen winners were double figure prices, including 16/1 twice, 25/1 and 33/1. So perhaps the RSA Chase is a race in which to take a bit of a flyer…
All bar four of the last fifteen winners were aged seven, and all fifteen were between five and eight. I’m happy to exclude any horse older than that.
The RSA Chase is a very good race, so it comes as no surprise that only two horses with a rating were rated lower than 143.
All bar three of those fifteen RSA Chases were won by a horse with between three and five chase starts to their name (3 runs-3; 4-6; 5-3); and all bar two were won by a horse with one to three chase wins to their name (1 win-5;2-5;3-3).
That last stat – that ten of the last fifteen RSA Chase winners had won over fences no more than twice – surprised me considerably, so I’m definitely looking for a lightly raced type.
Irish bred horses have won thirteen of the fifteen races in question (from 119 starters), with Frenchies claiming the other two, from a group of 34 who tried.
During the decade and a half in question, Irish-trained runners have won five, from 46 runners, for a profit of 13.63 units. Three of that quintet were trained by Willie Mullins, with Jessie Harrington and Charles Byrnes completing the set.
Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls have each trained two winners during that time, from 23 combined runners, for a profit of 5.7 points.
One final stat which bears consideration is that the Feltham Novices Chase at Kempton is widely held to be the pre-eminent trial for the RSA Chase. But, whilst horses have come from that race to win at Cheltenham (for instance, Bobs Worth last year), no horse in the history of the Feltham has won that race and the RSA.
Plenty have tried, including in last 15 years Grands Cru 6/5F; Long Run 11/4; Joe Lively 7/1; Ungaro 11/1; Darkness 11/2; Jair du Cochet 4/1; Maximize 9/1; Lord Of The River 11/2; and, Fiddling The Facts 9/2.
Dynaste is the beast to try to lay that ghost to rest, and he’s a best priced 5/2 to do that. He’s rated 161 over fences; has won all three of his novice chases, including around Cheltenham and, as I’ve mentioned, in the Feltham. It’s very hard to crab what he’s done, but then it was the same with Grands Crus and Long Run and the others.
Of course, Dynaste can win. But at 5/2, given the open nature of this race historically, I’m inclined to look elsewhere for a bet.
RSA Chase Trends ‘box tickers’
Those from the top dozen or so in the ante-post betting that tick all the boxes are as follows:
Dynaste (though he did win the Feltham, implying that speed rather than stamina is his forte; and he is French bred, when I favour Irish bred’s), Boston Bob, Back In Focus, Aupcharlie, Hadrian’s Approach, Super Duty, Highland Lodge
RSA Chase 2013 Early Form Thoughts
After Dynaste, next in the betting is the Willie Mullins pair, Boston Bob and Back In Focus. Boston Bob chased home Brindisi Breeze last year, and represents the form of that race (Neptune) after the sad demise of the winner. This is the same path trodden by that other Bob, s Worth, and Boston Bob duly won his fencing debut in mid-December.
But, it has to be said, it would be very hard to get excited about the bare form there. Sure, it was heavy ground, which has been the cause of his only defeat outside of the Festival and his narrowest wins. And sure, he’s entitled to improve a bundle. And sure, he jumped extremely well in the main.
If the ground comes up better, then he’s got a definite chance because he has plenty of class. But the RSA Chase is usually won by tenacity more than class. Think Denman, Bobs Worth, Hussard Collonges.
Back In Focus, like Dynaste, is three from three over fences, most recently winning the Grade 1 novice chase at Leopardstown at Christmas. He looks like he almost certainly needs it soft and, by the law of averages, I’m still expecting a dry spell between now and mid-March. Certainly, if it came up boggy, he’d be a player, but a player to back on the day, perhaps.
Aupcharlie (presumably pronounced, Ay-oop-Charlie) is a 16/1 shot and he looks interesting to me. He’s got a plum RSA profile, with two runs so far, one win, he’s a seven year old, he was third in the Cheltenham bumper of 2011, and he looks like ground just on the soft side of good will be ideal.
Aupcharlie travelled like the winner that last day, when just getting chinned in the final strides by Back In Focus. I’m not sure he necessarily didn’t stay, but that was his first attempt at three miles and I’d imagine he’d have an entry in the shorter Jewson Novices Chase too.
Unioniste is a 20/1 shot and this classy young thing surely can’t live with the grinders that typically take home the spoils here… can he? He was getting all the weight when prevailing against more experienced nags in a Grade 3 handicap chase last time, and there would be definite trip questions with him too. I very much like this one, but not in the context of the RSA Chase.
Arvika Ligeonniere is three years older than when palpably not staying in the 2010 Albert Bartlett, and it may be that he’s strengthened up since then. But the fact that he’s been campaigned at no further than two and a half miles – and shown enough speed to win a Grade 1 over two miles – leads me to think he hasn’t strengthened up enough. He’s another which must get entries elsewhere and as such doesn’t look like an ante-post wager to my eye.
Hadrian’s Approach doesn’t jump well enough to be considered, though he will probably be a fair bit shorter on the day than his current 20/1 odds.
Super Duty is just the type of street fighter to do well in the RSA. He’s ultra tough, as he showed when battling to a thirteen length win in the novices’ chase at the last Cheltenham meeting of 2012. And he’s consistent – five wins, three seconds, and a tumble from nine starts. A handicap mark of 139 implies he’s a bit to find – a fair bit, perhaps – and his probable range of entries make him a precarious proposition two months ahead of time.
And finally from the group under consideration, Highland Lodge is of interest. Emma Lavelle’s seven-year-old Irish-bred is by sire of the moment, Flemensfirth, and looks an out and out stayer. Add to that the fact that he’s ground agnostic and you have an intriguing contender. Rated only 141, he may have another run between now and the Festival, giving him the chance to boost that into ‘the zone’. Either way, he has an otherwise impeccable profile for a race like the RSA and is a temptingly juicy 25/1 in a place (generally 20′s and 16′s).
So, where does all that leave us? Dynaste is short enough in a race where favourites, Frenchies and Feltham winners have a poor record. He’s overlooked in search of that ethereal little beauty called value.
Mullins’ B’s, Boston Bob and Back In Focus, have chances too. Of the pair, I’m slightly leaning towards Back In Focus, especially if the ground stays squidgy; and I also respect the second horse in that race, Aupcharlie.
Stamina, class and/or jumping concerns eliminate Arvika Ligeonniere, Hadrian’s Approach and the loveable Super Duty from my mind, which leaves Highland Lodge as my ante-post pick.