2014 RSA Chase Preview, Trends, Tips
The RSA Chase has been a very good dress rehearsal for the Cheltenham Gold Cup itself in recent times, with both Bobs Worth and Denman going on to win the big one since 2007.
Run over three miles and half a furlong, this novice chase is often a war of attrition and, as well as being a stepping stone to greater things for some winners, it has also been the last hurrah for others.
Indeed, since Denman landed the spoils in 2007, only Alberta's Run and Bobs Worth have gone on to win further races. Cooldine, Weapon's Amnesty, Bostons Angel and, so far, Lord Windermere have all failed to record a subsequent success at any level.
So who are the likely movers and shakers for the 2014 RSA Chase? As usual, I'll highlight what I consider to be some of the more material trends before ploughing into the form book, then finally I'll offer my idea of the best value in the RSA Chase market.
We start with the RSA Chase trends...
2014 RSA Chase Trends
Age: Seven-year-olds have a phenomenal record in the RSA. Since 1999, they've won twelve of the fourteen renewals, from just 80 runners for a profit of £43.95 to a £1 stake. Just two of the 62 runners aged eight-plus have won.
Form: All of the last 24 RSA Chase winners finished in the first three on their prior start, with 22 of them running first or second the last day. Only Denman and Florida Pearl have won the RSA Chase having been unbeaten over fences since Miinnehoma in 1992. 31 have tried since 1997.
Experience: Only the brilliant Florida Pearl (two) has won the RSA with less than three chase starts to his name since 1997. Apart from the very experienced Rule Supreme (eight), the other fourteen winners since 1997 had between three and five prior chase runs.
Layoff: All of the last sixteen RSA Chase winners had between 16 and 60 days off the track since their last run.
Breeding: Irish bred horses have taken fifteen of the last seventeen RSA Chases, with French-bred nags claiming the other two. The last British-bred winner was Brief Gale in 1995, and they've managed just five places since.
The trends shortlist includes Black Thunder, Many Clouds, O'Faolains Boy, and Smad Place.
2014 RSA Chase Preview
And so to the form book. Before we look at individual horses, the following races have been key pointers to the likely RSA Chase winner in recent times.
In Ireland, the Dr P J Moriarty Chase has showcased RSA Chase winners Cooldine (won both, 2009), Weapon's Amnesty (2nd 2010), Bostons Angel (won both 2011), and Lord Windermere (3rd, 2013). This year, Ballycasey beat Don Cossack, with Carlingford Lough an unlucky faller at the last.
In Britain, the two key prep races are the Feltham Novices' Chase and the Reynoldstown. The Feltham is noteworthy for the fact that no winner has gone on to win the RSA Chase in its history. This year, Annacotty bids to lay the Feltham hoodoo to rest. Beaten horses have prevailed in the RSA however, most recently Bobs Worth in 2012. The placed horses in this season's Feltham were Green Flag and Third Intention, though both were beaten far enough.
The Reynoldstown, run at Ascot, also saw Bobs Worth beaten in 2012 and, whilst it is a stiffer test than Kempton's Feltham, it is less of a challenge than the RSA Chase itself. Albertas Run won this en route to Cheltenham glory in 2008. This year, O'Faolains Boy beat Many Clouds.
So, since 2008, all six RSA Chase winners have exited one of those three races. I will focus primarily on them.
The RSA Chase requires a combination of stamina, guts and a scintilla of class. Usually, however, an abundance of the first two will suffice. When looking for a bet in this race I want to be on a horse that was finishing to some effect in one of the key trials the last day.
The beaten horses in their preps which went on to win the RSA all showed a finishing effort: according to the Racing Post, Lord Windermere "kept on well under pressure" when a half length third in the Moriarty; Bobs Worth "stayed on to take 2nd [at the] last" in the Reynoldstown; Bostons Angel " stayed on well under pressure from last, led close home"; and, Weapon's Amnesty "went 2nd after last, kept on run-in".
None of them were backing out of their race at the end, and this is crucial. We want a horse that can stay. And stay. And stay.
In the Reynoldstown, O'Faolains Boy and Many Clouds finished in that order, separated by two and a half lengths. The winner outpaced the second, and looked as though he might run away in the closing stages. But Many Clouds plugged on well or, as the Racing Post put it, "outpaced by winner soon after 2 out, kept on again near finish".
I doubt there will be much between them at Cheltenham, and they both jumped the last in attractive fashion, suggesting there was at least a bit more in the tank if needed. O'Faolains Boy has raced exclusively on soft or heavy under rules so far, and there would be a slight niggle if it came up quicker than that on the day, but his profile - which includes a very good fourth to At Fisher's Cross in last year's Albert Bartlett - has plenty of appeal.
Despite that, I am drawn to Many Clouds as the probable preferred plodder of the pair. A useful hurdler, he was second in a Grade 3 novice handicap at Sandown under top weight before getting tapped for speed at Aintree. Since going chasing, Many Clouds has won two and finished second twice. In both the silver medal races, he's "kept on" having been outpaced. This slightly longer trip and considerably stiffer test looks tailor made, and I like him at 16/1.
Ballycasey, the favourite for the race, is harder to assess. He's only had two chase starts - winning both - and that is less than all bar Florida Pearl in recent times. Is he capable of being a Florida Pearl? Time will tell, but the more pertinent question is whether he'll have the stamina to see this out.
In his first chase run, he won a beginners' chase beating Mount Colah, a 135 animal, by eight easy lengths over a two mile trip. On his only subsequent start, he saw off Don Cossack over two miles five in the Grade 1 Dr P J Moriarty Chase. Don Cossack was well enough held, and I'd have reservations about his getting the three miles-plus of the RSA.
Ballycasey on the other hand might improve for better ground and hasn't proved he can't stay. Nor yet has he proved that he can and, allied to his inexperience, 5/1 is extremely unattractive for all the promise he might have. He's also had a couple of training niggles this season, which is less than ideal.
Carlingford Lough is a horse I've backed. I admit that I'd not really gone through the form at that time, but he was a standout 14/1 when everyone else was offering 10/1. At time of writing now, there is a range from 8/1 to 12/1, and that's based on his form.
Bizarrely for a novice, Carlingford Lough has had thirteen chase starts! That sequence includes a Galway Plate win last summer, a second in the Drinmore (Grade 1, two and a half miles, beaten by Don Cossack), and a win in the Grade 1 Topaz Novices Chase over three miles. He beat Morning Assembly there, staying on at the finish, and that again is key to his chance. He sees the trip out well and has bags of experience allied to a touch of class. He might not be quite good enough, but with McCoy doing the steering we should get a run for our money.
The Feltham was won by Annacotty in clear cut fashion, and it's tough to see anything coming from out of the pack in that contest to be good enough for an RSA Chase win. Annacotty's own claims are rather let down by his staying form away from Kempton, where he's two from two at the three mile trip. He's been beaten multiple times in handicaps - as has Carlingford Lough for that matter (though some will argue that was by design rather than accident!) - and didn't look to have too much more to give over two miles five at Cheltenham last time out. He could surprise - I know one keen form student who likes this fellow - but he's not for me.
The others at the top of the betting are attempting to win this having swerved the major trials, something which has not happened since Denman, second in a Grade 1 hurdle at the previous Festival, won in 2007.
Smad Place has Festival credentials having been third in two World Hurdles. He has won his two completed novice chases in good style, but has yet to be tested in Graded company. The last horse to win the RSA Chase having dodged Graded chasers previously was Lord Noelie in 2000. It does happen, but 7/1 has no fat in it for a hungry scribe such as me. I'd expect Smad Place to run an honest race, maybe even win, but I don't think he's value given he unseated on chase debut and hasn't really put his jumping under much pressure so far.
Morning Assembly emptied out quickly last time when beaten by Carlingford Lough, and he looks to have more of a chance at Punchestown than Cheltenham to my eye.
And Donald McCain's Corrin Wood was rated just 130 over hurdles, and yet is allotted 156 after three non-Graded chase wins beating a cumulative eight rivals. Granted, he has stayed well in those races, and he's shown an ability to handle different going conditions. But the overall performance of unbeaten horses that swerve top company is poor. Indeed, the last winner to take the RSA as an unbeaten and untested in Graded chases horse was Miinnehoma in 1992. Not for me, thanks.
If there's any value lurking in the lower end of the lists, it might be with Paul Nicholls' Black Thunder. He was two and a half lengths behind Corrin Wood turning in at Warwick last time, and the same margin away at the finish. He'd won a Grade 2 in three previous chase wins, and 25/1 offers a bit of value, given his vanquisher last time is no better than 10/1.
2014 RSA Chase Tips
The RSA Chase is a compelling race, as ever, and my tips are made in a quest for value. Ballycasey can win - of course - but he's inexperienced and I'm not convinced by his stamina yet. Smad Place looks like he'll be thereabouts if his jumping holds up, but he's no price for a race like that.
Many Clouds looks exactly the sort for an RSA Chase, and 16/1 is a perfectly fair, borderline generous, price in my opinion. Carlingford Lough has been around the blough (see what I did there?) and he's a strong stayer with a bit of class. He'd have been within a couple of lengths of Ballycasey but for unseated at the last in his previous race, and so he ought not to be around three times the price.
And for a real outsider, maybe nibble Black Thunder, though I much prefer the chance of the two above at the prices.
RSA Chase Selections:
1 pt win Many Clouds 16/1 bet365 (Non-Runner No Bet, Best Odds Guaranteed)
1 pt win Carlingford Lough 12/1 BetVictor (Non-Runner Free Bet)