RSA Chase 2015 Preview, Trends, Tips
It's the staying novice chase championship, and the RSA Chase has been the portent of numerous future top notchers, most recently Lord Windermere and Bobs Worth, winners of the last two Gold Cups.
RSA Chase Trends
As usual, trends cover the last seventeen renewals going back to 1997 (abandoned in 2001 due to foot and mouth), and are provided with thanks to horseracebase.com
Age: 13 of the last 17 winners (76%) were aged seven. Indeed, 13 of the last 15 winners were, but let's not cherry-pick! Those 13 winners came from just 49% of the runners. None of the 23 horses aged nine or higher has won, and only one placed.
Last Time Out:
Finishing Position: All seventeen winners since 1997 finished in the first three last time out, with nine winning (53%, from 48% of the runners); six finishing second (35%, from 20% runners); and two finishing third (12%, from 11% runners).
Grade: Although the four winners from 41 runners to have raced in Grade 1 company last time broke about even to level stakes, the four winners from 52 runners to have competed at Grade 2 level the last day were deeply unprofitable to follow. That was despite both being roughly in line with their 'expected' number of wins.
Those horses coming into the RSA Chase from a last time run in an ungraded event won eight of 106 starts - again, about what should be expected from that number of runners. In other words, there is very little to be gleaned from the grade of race last time.
Distance: None of the 44 runners stepping up from a race distance below 2m5f last time was able to win, while those to have raced between 2m5f and three miles the last day moving less markedly to the stamina-sapping three miles half a furlong here bagged 14 of the 17 renewals from 116 runners (82% winners from 56% runners). They were also worth a profit at SP of 21.33 points.
This looks a material factor.
Days since a run: Although Hanakham wheeled back to the track twenty days after his previous race back in 1997, all of the subsequent sixteen RSA Chase winners have had between three weeks and two months off the track. Further, those absent for between one and two months have claimed eleven of the seventeen (65%) from 83 runners (40%).
Course of last run: Since 1997, RSA Chase winners last ran at Ascot (3 from 31); Exeter, Fontwell, Haydock, Huntingdon, Kempton, Newbury, Punchestown, Sandown, and Wincanton (one apiece); and Leopardstown (5 from 35).
The following look noteworthy :
- The three Ascot to RSA Chase winners all ran in the Reynoldstown Chase, two winning and one finishing second
- The five Leopardstown to RSA Chase winners all ran in the Dr PJ Moriarty Novices' Chase, three winning, one second and one third.
- The thirty runners to have competed last at either Kempton or Cheltenham have scored just once between them, that being Lord Noelie, who took in a run of the mill novice chase at the first-named track in 2000. Only one other horse was placed in the RSA having run at these two premier courses last time out.
This year's Reynoldstown Chase will be run on 14th February, and the first two home should be noted. The result of the 2015 Dr PJ Moriarty Novices' Chase was:
1st Apache Stronghold
2nd Valseur Lido (beaten 1/2 length)
3rd Adriana Des Mottes (beaten 5 lengths)
Experience: Those with more experience of fences have fared best. To wit, those with between three and five chase starts under their belt claimed 14 of the last 17 RSA Chases (82%), from 134 runners (64%)
Interestingly, perhaps, those coming into the RSA Chase unbeaten over fences are just two from 33 since 1997, for a huge 86% loss on stakes.
Breeding: 15 of the last 17 winners have been Irish bred.
At this stage, those with the best trends fits include Sausalito Sunrise, Apache Stronghold, If In Doubt and Deputy Dan.
RSA Chase Form Preview
This looks a cracking race, and it's one which is likely to be run at a very fast gallop with two of the first three in the betting confirmed front runners, and both of them unbeaten in three over fences.
We start with Kings Palace, who completed his fencing hat-trick with a hard fought win in a two horse novices' chase at Newbury on Saturday. While that was far from impressive, his two previous chase wins were: both of them typified by fluent jumping from the front, and comfortable margins over the same horse, Sausalito Sunrise.
He'd looked classy and a good jumper prior to the laboured effort at Newbury, where the ground could have been softer than ideal. Likely to be firmer turf at Cheltenham, my main worry is whether he can get his own way on the lead, which seems very important to Kings Palace. There is also the niggle about the way he folded in the Albert Bartlett at the Festival last year, and those two concerns are enough for me to overlook David Pipe's inmate at the price.
The other confirmed front runner is Coneygree, a novice who looks an absolute natural. Indeed, you'll be hard pushed to find a better round of jumping from a novice in a big race than his Denman Chase win.
Mark Bradstock's eight year old missed almost two years after a decent third to At Fisher's Cross in the Neptune Trial race in January 2013. Reappearing at the end of November last year, he's racked up three wins in Graded company: a Grade 1 (Feltham Novices' Chase) and two Grade 2's.
He is a most fluent jumper, and has a high cruising speed. Moreover, his beating of Houblon Des Obeaux and Unioniste in the Denman puts him on the fringes of the Gold Cup picture. Connections are reportedly very tempted by that race, but in my opinion it would be a mistake.
While I'll temper my feelings short of comparison with the ill-fated Gloria Victis, another impressive novice pitched in at the Gold Cup, I do feel that the RSA is the obvious race for Coneygree, and that there'd be nothing lost in waiting for next year for a tilt at the Blue Riband.
Still, I'm not the owner and it's easy for me to be dispassionate about somebody else's horse. At any rate, it's very hard to countenance a bet on Coneygree in the context of his potential absence, and also mindful that he may not get his usual free rein in front of a high class RSA Chase field (or indeed in the Gold Cup itself).
Don Poli trumps both of the aforementioned pair in the betting, by dint of his Grade 1 Topaz Novice Chase win at Christmas and, of course, of his Cheltenham Festival win last season in the Martin Pipe Conditionals' Handicap Hurdle. Unbeaten in two over fences so far, that's less experienced than all bar two of the last seventeen winners of the RSA Chase.
He too has alternative engagements, and there has been much chatter about Don Poli potentially going for the novices' chase (Toby Balding National Hunt Chase) so that trainer Willie Mullins' son, Patrick, can ride. Although that may be wide of the mark, it is a concern in a race where no bookmaker is yet non-runner no bet.
On the bright side, the horse he beat - and beat well - at Leopardstown was Apache Stronghold, himself winner of the PJ Moriarty Chase last weekend. The Moriarty is over three furlongs shy of the Topaz trip, and that looks to be Apache Stronghold's optimum, whereas Don Poli stays better, as he showed when looking set for defeat in that Christmas run.
I think Don Poli looks the most likely winner of the RSA Chase - largely in line with his ante post market position - but I'd far sooner wait until the day even though that probably means taking a shorter price. There's no sense in 9/2 about a non-runner when 7/2 or 4/1 may be available on the day!
It's 10/1 bar that trio, and that brings in the highly progressive The Young Master. Neil Mulholland's stable star has come from nowhere this year, having finished 9th of 11 in a Class 5 handicap hurdle in October 2013. That's the basement level but, since then, he's nabbed three handicap hurdles, two all weather handicaps on the flat, and four out of four chases.
He was disqualified from his win in the Badger Ales Trophy, due to having been ineligible to run, but that detracts not one iota from a tremendous performance. And The Young Master, still only six, looked progressive again when beating Houblon Des Obeaux in a Listed handicap chase at Ascot in December.
A strong stayer and most progressive - he's gone from a rating of 94 for that first hurdle win to a chase mark now of 151 - The Young Master would be more of interest to me if running again before Cheltenham, having not raced since before Christmas, and he's another I'd rather play at slightly shorter with fitness assured.
A trio of 14/1 chances follow: Valseur Lido, Southfield Theatre and Apache Stronghold. The last named looks quite likely to run in a different race and is excluded on that basis. Valseur Lido also has three entries, ranging from 2m4f to four miles, and his participation in the RSA Chase may hinge on which way stablemate Don Poli goes. If Don Poli goes the four-miler, Valseur Lido comes here. And if Valseur Lido comes here, he has a chance.
Although the Dr P J Moriarty was the furthest he's raced to date - 2m5f - he seemed if anything to be slightly outpaced by the winner when going down by half a length. He'd previously won the Grade 1 Drinmore Novices' Chase, although it should be said that race has been a poor form guide to Cheltenham Festival novice events.
Paul Nicholls trains Southfield Theatre, yet another with multiple entries as he is also in the four miler at this stage. Given that he's never raced beyond three miles over fences, it looks more likely he'll take in the RSA Chase. And I like his chance, despite it being possible to pick holes in his chasing form.
He's had four runs over fences, three of them wins, and they include a Grade 2 event. He was beaten in another Grade 2 at Newbury over three miles, but that was on soft ground. His best form is all on quicker surfaces.
Then, on 8th February, Southfield Theatre beat Melodic Rendezvous in a fair novice chase at Exeter. Although he wasn't fortunate to win that race, his main challenger fell at the last when upsides. That trial, over two and a half miles, would have been plenty short enough for the winner, with his Cheltenham race record showing a nose second to Fingal Bay in last year's Pertemps over three miles; and a short neck third in a 3m2f handicap hurdle, also last season.
So, we know he stays, we know he wants good ground (which he'll probably get), we know he acts on the track, and we know he's a sound jumper. In the circumstances, then, 14/1 looks good about a horse more likely than not to turn up, and with an almost perfect trends profile (he falls down on the last time out race distance stat, but should arguably be marked up for being able to win over a sub-optimal trip).
Ptit Zig comes next and looks more likely to run in the JLT where he has a very solid chance. We then go to the 25/1 shots, Apache Jack and Sausalito Sunrise.
Sausalito Sunrise fell behind Coneygree in the Feltham last time, and looks to have been foiled by an emphasis on speed over stamina in his last three runs. He's an out and out stayer, so chasing home Kings Palace twice in a sprint to the line; and then trying to hang on to Coneygree's shirt-tails around the more speedy Kempton Park was a tough ask. Three miles in a Championship event where they'll go mad from the tape rise looks ideal, and this normally sound jumper was sixth - albeit beaten far enough - in the Albert Bartlett last year.
The truth is he's probably not quite good enough to win. But, despite that, his form ties in well with two of the first three in the betting, and he's 25/1.
Apache Jack is a son of Oscar, sire of the last two RSA Chase winners, and was good enough to finish third in the Albert Bartlett last year. He definitely wants better ground than he's been racing on this season to date. Specifically, on ground described as soft or worse, his form is 76319231; on quicker turf, it reads 73134 (with the 34 being in Grade 1 Championship events).
Apache Jack would have been beaten last time but for the final fence fall of Gilt Shadow, but again that was on soft ground. With just two chase starts to his name, I'd like to see him race again before mid-March, but at the price I'm happy to take a fraction, given his proven good ground Festival form.
And, talking of big prices and that Albert Bartlett form, it might be worth hurling a couple of pence in the direction of 'potato race' second, Deputy Dan. His current odds of 50/1 are about right on the balance of his novice chase form, but he's surely better than he's shown to date.
I say "he's surely better than he's shown to date", but he actually might not be. However, here's the case for the defence: five chase starts in close proximity to each other may have over-taxed him; at least a couple of those were over shorter trips than ideal; and, none has been run at the rapid pace off which he seems to travel so well.
Making excuses for horses is an expensive habit but, at 50/1, I'm prepared to risk a tenner to a monkey that Oliver Sherwood might have two staying chase Festival hopes (Many Clouds being the other) capable of striking gold.
RSA Chase Tips
There are reasons to look away from the top of the RSA Chase market, at this stage at least. Kings Palace has questions to answer on Festival form and won't get a soft lead; Coneygree may run elsewhere, and even if he doesn't, won't get a soft lead; Don Poli may also run elsewhere, and is more inexperienced than most RSA winners; and, it's 10/1 bar.
Southfield Theatre will enjoy the ground and the trip, and has been brought to the boil nicely by trainer, Paul Nicholls. He looks very likely to take in this race. And, at the prices, I think Apache Jack has plenty of value meat left on his odds bone. Finally, for small money, Deputy Dan could truncate markedly for the RSA if taking up - and winning - one of his pair of Leicester engagements this week.
1 pt Southfield Theatre 14/1 general (all in run or not)
1 pt Apache Jack 25/1 general (all in run or not)
0.5 pt Deputy Dan 50/1 general (all in run or not)