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RSA Chase Preview, Trends, Tips

2016 RSA Chase Preview, Trends, Tips

Cheltenham Festival's RSA Chase is the staying novice chase championship race. One of the best Gold Cup trials for the following year, the RSA Chase has sent winners onto glory in the main event three times in the last eight seasons (Denman, Bobs Worth, Lord Windermere).

Don Poli, last year's RSA champ, is vying for Gold Cup favouritism this time around, and in this post we'll look at who might assume that role next term as the reigning 2016 RSA Chase winner. We start, as is customary, with the trends.

RSA Chase Trends

Eighteen years of data to work from, going back as far as 1997 (excluding 2001, no meeting), and it is thanks to our friends at horseracebase.com for some of the key information summarized here.

Field size has varied quite a lot in the last few years, with Denman beating 16 rivals in 2007 and Hussard Collonges prevailing in a field of 19 in 2002. At the other end of the spectrum, there were just eight runners last year when Don Poli took the prize and there have been nine starters five times since the turn of the millennium.

At time of writing, there are still 35 horses engaged, so we could be looking at one of the bigger fields. When the field has been 12 or bigger, the average winning odds have been 12.6/1, and that includes scorers at 6/5 and 9/4! That said, most have at least on alternative engagement so time will tell how many actually go to post.

The Irish have an excellent recent record in the RSA, winning in five of the last seven years. Those five winners came from just 29 runners (79 raced in total), so it may not be a surprise to see an Irish horse at the head of the market. What might come as a shock is that the next horse from that country in the betting is a double figure price.

All 18 winners finished in the first three last time, with ten winning and six more running second. However, the ten winners (56%) came from roughly half the runners, and that group collectively stepped onto the podium just better than half the time (54%) as well. In other words, they did no better than their representation implied.

Last day runners-up, however, over-performed. Perhaps because they were not quite at concert pitch on that last day, perhaps because they ran in a less gruelling race such as the Feltham/Kauto Star, this squad of 42 horses represented 19% of the runners but 33% of the winners/24% of the places. They were also profitable to back blind, to the tune of 46 points, mainly thanks to 25/1 Rule Supreme (trained by a then lesser known Willie Mullins) and 33/1 Hussard Collonges.

In terms of age, older horses - nine year old and up - have a lamentable record of no wins and a single place from, granted, a fairly small sample of 23 entries since 1997. Miinnehoma, subsequent Grand National winner, was the last 9yo winner in 1992.

Younger horses, notably those aged five to seven, have thus outscored their numbers. Specifically, from 71% of the runners, they've won all bar two of the 18 RSA Chases since 1997, and also snaffled 85% of the places.

Despite these somewhat 'obvious' angles in, winners have come from all parts of the betting market. Five favourites have won since '97, but so too have five horses priced 14/1 or bigger. This is a race that takes most entrants into uncharted territory with regards to class and stamina, and resolution too; and it is often the one that can reveal most improvement in that context who prevails.

Other points of interest include the need for a run in the calendar year (one one winner in half a century has been rested longer), and the fact that the Feltham winner has been beaten every time it has run in the RSA Chase (though this season's winner, Tea For Two, is not entered).

Ideally, then, a trends type might be looking for an Irish-trained horse that was first or second last time, is seven or younger, and has run this year. More experience is generally better, too, meaning that the likes of Roi Des Francs, Ballychorus, or most notably perhaps, No More Heroes, will be in such players' focus.

2016 RSA Chase Preview

This looks like a great race at which to take a flier now that some of the firms are going non runner no bet (NRNB). We'll get to that in due course, but must start with the clear favourite, No More Heroes. Gordon Elliott's seven-year-old son of Presenting probably has the pick of the form, starting with an unlucky-in-running third in the Albert Bartlett at the Festival last year.

He would have gone mightily close that day but for getting no run up the inside rail, and he looked a strong stayer at the trip. Whilst his chase form is limited to three starts, two of those have been wins in Grade 1 company and it is hard to envisage the beaten horses - such as Monksland and Rule The World - getting close to reversing form.

As well as that Festival third, he had an excuse when beaten in the Punchestown equivalent: he was surely still reeling from a hard race a few weeks before. Given a clear round, he looks a very solid and worthy favourite, although his price of 9/4 NRNB reflects that. Still, he'll take some beating.

Your first 30 days for just £1

The next few in the market are British, possibly reflecting No More Heroes' perceived dominance in Ireland. Pick of the home guard is More Of That, according to the betting, but recent noises from the McManus camp suggest this fellow may go to the JLT rather than here. In that context, NRNB is a must if you fancy his chance.

His chance is easy with which to sympathise if he does show up here. Wildly progressive as a hurdler, he went from winning a maiden event to scalping Annie Power in the 2014 World Hurdle in the space of just five runs. Things haven't gone completely to plan since, however, with just a trio of races spanning the intervening two years.

Two of those were novice chases, and both were wins, but both were in ungraded heats and both were late last year. As such, he has to show he retains all of his class and he has to show he is match fit. At a top price of 10/3 NRNB, I will let him beat me. He'll surely be at least that on the day, should he show up.

Although there may be more substance to Blaklion's chase form - a ready defeat of Definitly Red reads well - his prominent racing style does rather make him a hostage to field size. All of his seven wins have come in races of eight or fewer runners, and he pulled up when competing against some of his likely RSA rivals having raced too close to an attritional gallop in the 'run for the spuds' (Albert Bartlett) last year. He's a likeable sort - plenty of these fit that bill - but unless the entry cuts up markedly I think his chance is compromised.

Another for whom a small field is a definite advantage is likely pace setter, Seeyouatmidnight. This fellow is a serious tool, and already has a verdict over Blaklion at Cheltenham on New Year's Day. Since then, he had a livener at Newcastle where he got it done at odds of 1/8. I like this chap, I really do; but his sort of heart-on-sleeve front rank galloping leaves him wide open late in the play.

Again, a record of six wins, the five of which since a novice hurdle victory against ten rivals have been achieved in fields of seven or less, tells a tale. That said, he seems to jump better out of soft ground, so if it was wet for the Festival, he could get into a nice rhythm and take some passing. 10/1 NRNB is not completely lacking in appeal.

Nicky Henderson has crept into this year's Festival almost unnoticed but he arguably has a better team than last year when he won two Festival races. Vyta Du Roc is a nearly horse, and one must keep that in mind when considering an investment in his RSA chance. He was the main danger to Windsor Park in the 2015 Neptune, only to make a calamitous blunder at the last. Remarkably, he was regathered and nursed home for a close fourth, beaten just five lengths.

Since then he ran closest to Thistlecrack over hurdles in a G1 at Aintree before embarking on his chasing career. Three starts over fences have yielded two wins either side of a close second where he may have been outpaced over a sub-optimal trip. He was a gallant winner of the Reynoldstown at Ascot last month, outstaying some fair horses and just hanging on from Minella Rocco, who looks destined for the NH Chase. That four miler hasn't been totally discounted as Vyta's Festival destination, but the RSA is favoured and I think he has a decent each way chance at 12/1 NRNB.

Black Hercules, like many in the list at the moment, has other options; and his trainer admits, "He's the one that I'm thinking most about. He's favourite for the four-miler, but I'm thinking of changing". It will be no surprise then that you can get 14/1 in a place but the best price NRNB is just 8/1. Hercules was really impressive when duffing up Definitly Red at Warwick - a sharp track - over three miles. That easy win suggested he has plenty of boot, as did a win over Sambremont over a shorter trip the time before. Both of those races were on heavy ground, however.

Of more concern is a Grade 1 record of 407 that suggests he might not quite be up to the very top level. His jumping is another niggle: he can clatter one, as he did when falling at the last under Ruby Walsh on his most recent outing. For all sorts of reasons, then, he's not for me. (Cue easy win)

Roi Des Francs is "going four-miler or RSA, depending on what Gigginstown want to do. Stamina is not an issue with him. He's good." That's a quote from Willie Mullins on sportinglife.com, and it suggests strongly that NRNB is the only route in if you like this fellow. There is, in fact, a fair bit to like.

His chase record is 211, the most recent win coming in a three mile Grade 2 event. Just three runners went to post there but he beat his better fancied and Ruby-ridden stable mate, with the same six lengths to Sub Lieutenant he'd bested that one by on his previous start. He looks set to run a big race if he lines up, especially if the ground comes up soft, and 12/1 e/w NRNB is reasonable.

Pont Alexandre must be a way down the Willie Mullins pecking order, and he has to prove he retains the ability that saw him run third in The New One's 2013 Neptune. In fact, he'll probably need to be slightly better than that to win this, and I don't think he is.

It's quite hard to see Out Sam winning, even allowing for him being a good bit better than he's shown so far; while Outlander would have been interesting if his first preference wasn't for the JLT. Sadly, it is.

At fancy prices, Drumacoo hit the front early enough in the Reynoldstown and wasn't beaten far at the end of a contest when they were racing from a long way out. That was his first sight of Graded company and he acquitted himself well. He could outrun his odds without especially floating my boat, even at 'double carpet' (33/1).

(Slightly) more appealing is Southfield Royale. Neil Mulholland's six-year-old has entries in this and the NH Chase and, should he line up here, he has a compelling profile. We know young horses go well in the RSA; we know horses that were second last time out have a market-beating record; and we know that beaten horses in the Feltham can win this (think Bobs Worth).

Southfield Royale did look tapped for toe approaching the last there and, when Tea For Two went by him, he knuckled down to close the gap, albeit steadily. A more recent run than Boxing Day would have been preferable, but at 25/1 NRNB he might be worth the tilt. Again, his trainer is leaning towards the NH Chase (what's the matter with these trainers?!)

Down in the long grass lurks a horse with very good Cheltenham Festival form, and reasons to forgive an ostensibly below par effort last time. Zabana, trained by Andrew Lynch, was a neck second to Aux Ptits Soins in the Coral Cup last season, and has had just three runs since. The first of those was a good third in the Punchestown World Hurdle, a Grade 1 over three miles, where he was beaten 11 lengths by Jezki.

He's gone chasing since, winning a reasonable beginners' chase over an intermediate distance on heavy ground, before beating two of his five rivals home in the Grade 1 Flogas Novices' Chase. His trainer says he's a better horse on better gound and, importantly, the form book concurs. Expect that Flogas effort to have blown away the cobwebs so, whether he goes for the RSA Chase or the JLT, he's interesting. He's 33/1 for the longer race and 14/1 for the shorter, both NRNB, and both are worth an interest.

I have to mention my mate, Native River. He's headed for the four miler, almost certainly (sigh) and he's probably not good enough for this race anyway, but if he did line up here, he's not definitely not good enough. 33/1 NRNB is all right about a horse representing a trainer - Colin Tizzard - with an excellent Festival record. I'm hoping for my ante post investments a) that he runs here and b) that he simply got bogged down in the heavy ground last time. Hope is probably all I have left with those vouchers...

While we're fumbling in the dark, how about Ballychorus? This mare has three entries, one of which is the RSA Chase, and she's more interesting than many 66/1 shots. Rated only 141, she's won three of her four completed chase starts, but it is the two non-completions that draw the eye. Last fence falls in both the Troytown and Paddy Power Handicap Chases left her rating largely unchanged (cursory three pound penalty both times).

But the winner of the Troytown, who she might have beaten, went up seven; and the winner of the Paddy Power, who she might have beaten, went up twelve. She is versatile with regards to trip and ground, three miles on soft or good being within her compass, and she's a bit of a trendy sort too. A top price of 50/1 NRNB might tempt a throwaway dabble.

2016 RSA Chase Tips

There are a lot of horses still engaged in this race but most of them have at least one alternative engagement, and many have stated preferences elsewhere. The favourite, No More Heroes, looks sure to run here, and he looks sure to run well. Although 9/4 won't excite everyone, it looks a fair price relative to his chance, especially when the field is whittled back to those who are intended for the RSA Chase.

Despite myself, I'm drawn to the prospects of Vyta Du Roc, and 12/1 looks playable each way, non runner no bet. His trainer says he's flourished recently and, though I tend to ignore most of what his trainer says, that Reynoldstown win backs up Hendo's assertion.

Roi Des Francs and Southfield Royale are not without interest if turning up here - take NRNB and you'll get your dough back if/when they head elsewhere - and the same comment applies to Zabana who is the most compelling of the trio, to this eye at least.

Entering the realms of the hopelessly optimistic, perhaps, Ballychorus could go better than 50/1 if she can stand up.

1.5 pt win No More Heroes 9/4 NRNB BOG (Skybet)
0.75 pt e/w Vyta DuRoc 12/1 NRNB (Betfair Sports)
0.25 pt e/w Zabana 33/1 NRNB BOG (Skybet)
0.25 pt e/w Ballychorus 50/1 NRNB BOG (Skybet, 1/4 odds)

****

Other Cheltenham Festival 2016 Ante-Post Previews

All of our in-depth previews, trends and tips can be found here:

Cheltenham Festival 2016 Race Guide

Cheltenham Festival 2013: Day Two Preview/Tips

Cheltenham Festival Day Two Preview, Trends, Tips

Cheltenham Festival Day Two Preview, Trends, Tips

Cheltenham Festival 2013: Day Two Preview

Day two (Wednesday) has good news and bad news for us. The good news is that there are still twenty races to go at. The bad news is that Day One is traditionally the easiest on which to find winners. Hmm, hope you had a decent start.

OK, no time for reflection, so let's push on with the first of the septet of Wednesday's fiendish equine sudoku's, the...

1.30 JOHN OAKSEY NATIONAL HUNT CHASE (Amateur Riders´

Novices´ Chase ) (CLASS 2) (5yo+) (4m)

Four miles. Amateur riders. Novice chasers. When deconstructing the ultimate safe wagering conveyance, it's Sprinter Sacre odds that you'd have any of that trio of conditions, let alone all three!

This is a stupid race, let's be clear about that from the outset. Even now they've made it a classier affair, you still see most of them fall over. Stupid. Hard luck punting stories are more abundant here than in a home for retired poker players. It's just stupid.

But... it does form the lead off leg for the placepot. And it has been won by the jolly old favourite for the past two years. So let's give it a lash.

National Hunt Chase Key Trends

Last two favourites won

8/11 finished 1-2 last time out

11/11 3+ chase starts

10/11 6-8yo

National Hunt Chase Form Preview

Back In Focus to win NH Chase?

Back In Focus to win NH Chase?

Back In Focus has had a great season so far, winning three novice chases, including a Grade 2 and a Grade 1 last time out. That's extremely strong form in this race. But the ground is a factor with him. He's done all his winning on soft or heavy, and when he came up against decent oppo on good turf at Aintree, he was stuffed senseless by Saint Are and most of the rest of the field. Lucky for him then, that it's on the soft side of good here.

Rival d'Estruval has been well backed for this, but I can't see it myself. He's been beating up mainly inferior rivals in the North and mostly on flat tracks. At the very least, he has to show he can win a Festival race on a seriously testing circuit, and the price doesn't allow for any wriggle room in that regard.

David Pipe's Buddy Bolero is filed firmly in the 'could be anything' dossier, and with all five of his runs to date having been on soft or heavy, his price acknowledges that he must have a great chance. Connections are obviously respected hugely,  and he ought to run very well if standing up, especially as his breeding lends credence to the notion that he's an out and out stayer.

Godsmejudge ran a blinder to be second in the Grade 3 Warwick staying handicap chase, but he was running on fumes at the death, and this is three furlongs further up a big hill in sticky ground. It's hard to crab a horse which has almost won over further than the vast majority of his rivals for being a doubtful stayer... but I do have a stamina niggle with him, after he showed his hand somewhat that day.

With five starts to his name, Godsmejudge is experienced, and he jumps pretty well in the main too. If he's not taken on for the lead early, and he stands up, he should still be involved at least until they turn for home. After that, the 'judge may well run out of juice.

Of the remainder, I'm far from confident that Tofino Bay will stay this far; Highland Lodge looks a really hard horse to catch right and is maybe a bleeder (previously nominated by me for the RSA, alas); and Hawkes Point could plod on into a place.

National Hunt Chase Tips

Not a race to get seriously involved with, unless you're currently very rich and don't mind being only quite rich by day's end. The Mullins runner obviously has the class if he can put in a clear round, and Buddy Bolero may be best of the rest.

Best value for National Hunt Chase: Back In Focus
Other likely contenders: Buddy Bolero
Longshot if on a going day: Highland Lodge

Betfred will give you the place part of your e/w bet back as a free bet if your horse finishes fourth here.

2.05 NEPTUNE INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT NOVICES´ HURDLE (Registered Baring Bingham Novices´ Hurdle) Grade 1 (CLASS 1) (4yo+) (2m5f)

A small field this year, with just ten slated to meet the starter, and a warm favourite in Pont Alexadre. He's very well regarded at home, so is it really a one horse race?

Neptune Novices' Hurdle Key Stats

14/15 were aged five or six

12/15 won last time (15/15 1-2-3 last time)

14/15 unrated or rated 138+

14/15 ran 16-60 days ago

Neptune Novices' Hurdle Form Preview

Pont Alexandre bidding to make Willie's day

Pont Alexandre bidding to make Willie's day

Pont Alexandre has a perfect profile for this, and comes from the extremely powerful Willie Mullins yard. He is three from three over hurdles, a hat-trick which includes a Grade 1 and a Grade 2 score. Clearly, there's a bundle of improvement possible.

But... he's a 6/4 shot, and his jumping has looked less than perfect so far. It's for that reason that I'm prepared to take him on at the price, despite his otherwise robust credentials.

The New One has been the apple of his trainer's eye for a while now, and he thinks this fellow might even be better than his Gold Cup winner, Imperial Commander. That's as maybe, but it's his credentials for this contest we're interested in, and they look good. He ran a fine race in the Champion bumper here on this day last year, and he again ran well here when just headed by At Fisher's Cross the last day.

Lest you think he's not quite good enough on these slopes, let me assure you that he's won twice here as well, in a Listed bumper and a decent novice hurdle. The ground will be no issue as it's what he's raced on for the most part this season, and his current form level puts him right in the mix.

Moreover, it was widely held that his jockey went too soon that day, and he's likely to be played later here, if he's still pitching with prospects.

Taquin de Seuil is the third musketeer at the top of the market, and he's an ex-flat racer from France. This contest is almost always won by a National Hunt type - that is, a more stoutly bred horse - and that's a negative for TdS. However, a four race hurdle career which has only one - small margin - defeat, and that to My Tent Or Yours, reads well enough.

He ought to be fine on the ground too, and ran on very nicely in a Grade 1 last time despite a novice'y leap at the last. He's clearly got a chance, but I just have a niggle about his flat breeding (by a ten furlong horse out of a miler) for such a stiff stamina examination.

Rule The World was something of a shock winner last time, but he was a facile one too and, though the form is suspect with long odds on Champagne Fever (winner of the Supreme Novices Hurdle on day one) running a clunker, it's hard to discredit the winner. His form profile looks quite solid too, with progression from race to race, and Minsk - a well beaten second last time - is a decent enough form stick.

With the turf not too distance a relation to the hock-deep quags he's been swimming though, and being that he's by a sire whose progeny have a marked preference for making a mark in the turf, Sulamani, he's sure to cope with the conditions. Whether he's good enough remains to be seen, but he should travel for a long way.

Chatterbox is the sort of 'now' horse which can do well in these type of events. Evidently not highly rated by his trainer when sent to contest a Huntingdon bumper in April last year, he was never in front until the line. Since then, he's won twice more and remains unbeaten.

The first of those two victories was eye-catching, because he beat none other than My Tent Or Yours by nearly five lengths. Now it's highly likely that the bare form flatters Chatterbox - a flatterbox, if you will - but nevertheless, you need to be good to even nick a race off My Tent.

He has since confirmed his upward form curve by beating the highly regarded Lac Fontana in a race which looks like it's going to work out well. Charlie Morlock, assistant trainer at Hendo's yard, reported that Chatterbox has improved a fair bit recently and, allied to a step up in trip - which looks ideal based on the way he's finished his races - this fellow could get on the podium.

Two Rockers is progressive and has been winning easily, including in Grade 2 company at Haydock last time, and he might get into it if not getting outpaced, but I doubt it.

I don't see the rest being quite good enough.

Neptune Novices' Hurdle Tips

Most Likely Winner: Pont Alexandre
Best Alternative: The New One (if not bitten by the bug at Twiston-Davies' yard)
Interesting at a price: Chatterbox

2.40  RSA CHASE (Grade 1) (CLASS 1) (5yo+) (3m 1/2f)

A decent race for me down the years, and I've a couple of strong-ish views again, which I've supported financially, natch! You definitely want a horse that stays here, and a grinder too, as they go at it from a long way out.

RSA Chase Key Stats

Last ten won or placed in a Grade 1 or 2 chase

14 of the last 15 finished first or second last time out

It's fifty years since a horse won this without a run in the same calendar year (!)

Your first 30 days for just £1

All of the last fifteen winners ran between 16 and 60 days prior

Every Feltham winner to run here has been beaten.

RSA Chase Form Preview

So it looks like a recent run and a good one at that, allied to a proven level of class, are pre-requisites here. Despite that sounding obvious, not all of the entries fit that fairly broad bill.

Dynaste, for instance, hasn't run since Boxing Day last year. He won the Feltham there too, which is a completely contrasting race to this, with speed favoured over guts and grinding. He's surely better suited to the Jewson, which is where he's headed.

Boston Bob is next in the betting and this boy is a classy plodder: just the attributes you need to win an RSA Chase. Last year, he was many people's 'banker' (if such a thing even exists), but got beaten by the late Brindisi Breeze. Since he's gone chasing, he's two from two, the latter in a Grade 1 which has been a very good trial for this.

But, despite winning both chase starts, he was all out and seriously laboured each time. The first day, he scrambled home by half a length from an above average (though nothing special) type called You Must Know Me, over two and a half miles.

Entitled to come on a lot for that - indeed, entitled to feel that race afterwards - Bob didn't surface again until 9th February, where he again got home by the skin of his teeth. But this time, the performance should be marked up considerably on the bare winning distances. He was outpaced as the field made a break for the line, and looked set to trail home in fourth place. In fact, he traded as high as 620 in running on Betfair!

But, in an impressive rally, Boston Bob made up five lengths from the last fence to nut Texas Jack on the line. Like I say, the bare form isn't good enough to win an RSA. But I expect him to improve considerably for the extra three furlongs here, perhaps by as much as seven to ten pounds. After all, he's only had the two chase starts to date.

My one concern with Boston Bob is that he does get outpaced in his races but, if he can hang on to the flailing tails of the leaders just before the home turn, he'll quite probably catch them and pass them up the hill.

Unioniste is also well fancied in the market, but he's not well fancied by me. Firstly, he's a five year old, and the allowances have long since stopped being dolled out from the days when Star de Mohaison won for that age group back in 2006. That day, Star got ten pounds from his rivals. Here, Unioniste will get just two pounds.

More telling than that, though, is that I'm just not sure he'll stay. Yes, he won the December Gold Cup well enough over two miles five here at Cheltenham, becoming the first four year old to win a handicap chase at Cheltenham in the process. But it's an extra half mile, give or take 100 yards here, and he was flat-out-all-out to hold the bungling Hadrian's Approach at Newbury. For me, he's far too short and I can see him possibly missing the frame here.

That rival, Hadrian's Approach, has a really tasty profile for the RSA. He's had four goes at chasing: a winner from the useful The Druids Nephew on debut, he then fell four out when going well behind the useful Harry Topper in a Grade 2.

After that, he went to the Feltham where he was no match for Dynaste, but he was the clear second best that day. If the Feltham winner struggles in the RSA, it's interesting that those who laboured behind the trailblazer there have gone on to win SIX RSA Chases, and three in the last eight years. Bobs Worth last year was the latest to achieve that.

And on his most recent start, Hadrian's Approach was beaten just a short head by Unioniste over Newbury's three miles. He absolutely horlicksed the second last and, but for that shuddering mistake, would surely have won by three lengths and been close to favouritism for this subsequently. I feel strongly that Hadrian's will finish his RSA race better than Unioniste, and I think he's the biggest danger to Boston Bob.

I really like this horse and, if his jumping holds up, he's got to go close.

RSA Chase Tips

Most Likely Winner: Boston Bob
Best Each Way: Hadrian's Approach

3.20 SPORTINGBET QUEEN MOTHER CHAMPION CHASE GRADE 1 (CLASS 1) (5yo+) (2m)

Likely to be a coronation procession this year, Sprinter Sacre looks unopposable. He's still only a second season chaser so has yet to claim a Champion Chase. Surely that will no longer be the case by 3.30pm on Wednesday.

Queen Mother Champion Chase Key Stats

13/15 had previously won at Cheltenham

13/15 finished 1-2-3 last time out

Queen Mother Champion Chase Form Preview

Sprinter Sacre has strong Champion Chase claims

Sprinter Sacre looks a lock

There's little point going into too much detail here. Sprinter Sacre will win and some other horses will finish second and third, presumably at a very respectful distance. Actually, there's only seven runners and therefore two places, so that rather buggers up things for place players... unless some very generous bookie type offers three places in an act of benevolence bordering on business suicide.

In truth, it's bar a fall stuff, and if Coral are still offering their £20 at evens on Sprinter Sacre, you should gladly accept. It's not money in the bank, but if he jumps round, the 100% interest rate is as close to that as you get in equine investment terms.

For the places,it's quite tricky to envisage Sizing Europe being more competitive this time aged eleven than he was last year aged ten, and against a far better horse.

We're then into the realms of 16/1 Mail de Bievre, a French import who looks capable on his best form, and might well make the frame if he doesn't bounce (only one starts since September 2011).

It's 20/1 the rest, and perhaps 25/1 Somersby is the place answer. This chap has good form at Cheltenham: he was third in the 2009 Supreme; second in the 2010 Arkle; fifth in the 2011 Champion Chase; and a non-staying seventh in the 2012 Ryanair Chase.

I'd rather cheer my even twenty quid on Sprinter Sacre than bet anything else, but Somersby could nick the place payout at a price which rewards taking the chance.

Queen Mother Champion Chase Tips

Most Likely Winner: Erm... Sprinter Sacre
Best Each Way: Somersby

Best Queen Mother Champion Chase Bookie Offer

Sprinter Sacre at even money? Really?! Yes! (£20 max stake)

 

4.00 Coral Cup Grade 3 (CLASS 1) (4yo+) (2m5f)

A trappy but not impossible handicap hurdle over an intermediate distance, and the market has generally had at least some view on the race with nine of the last ten winners being 16/1 or shorter.

Coral Cup Key Stats

11/12 Carried 11-02 or less

7/15 won last time out (12/15 top six last time)

14/15 aged five to eight years

14/15 Rated 127-142

Only two horses from 180 to try won this within 30 days of their last race.

Thirteen horses from 202 to try won this off a break of between 31 and 120 days.

Coral Cup Form Preview

The two I like are Barbatos and Meister Eckhart, both as big priced speculatives in a wide open race where they bet 7/1 the field.

Meister Eckhart is my first choice, and Alan King’s five year old was a smart novice last year that is well regarded by his handler.

A winner of only one of his quartet of hurdles runs, he been second and third in Grade 2 races, and a respectable fifth in the Albert Bartlett here last March.

His stamina ran out over those three miles, so this drop back might be ideal. Being lightly raced, he has scope to improve and this is a race which has favoured unexposed second season hurdlers in recent times (six of the last eight winners). A general 16/1 looks good.

Barbatos is worth a second glance. He's only run once this season, behind Mr Watson, on ground he would have hated and after a year off. Last season, he was a very nice novice, finishing second and third in Grade 2 races at around this trip behind Fingal Bay. He finished that season with a course and distance win on good to soft, and I'd expect him to be spot on for this, though he may not want it super-sticky underfoot.

Dangers are everywhere. Trying to name all of them is a fool's task, but key amongst them may be Pendra, and Mr Watson.

Pendra is very lightly raced, and highly regarded by the Charlie Longsdon team. In four starts, he's won three and was second to the very good Melodic Rendezvous in a Grade 1 at Sandown most recently. Although unlikely to have beaten much (or indeed anything) in two Plumpton novices, the Grade 1 form looks rock solid with all three of the horses to have come out of the race (winner, fifth and seventh) winning their subsequent starts.

Pendra quickened up smartly there and just got outspeeded by the winner. The pair pulled seven lengths clear of the rest, and the way Pendra jumped the last - quick and athletic - suggests he'll stay at least some of the extra trip of the Coral Cup.

Mr Watson absolutely bolted up at Cheltenham last time, and I for one was surprised with the facile nature of that win. He'd been allotted a mark of 127 there, and now has 139. He'll probably need to improve another seven pounds to win here, and that's certainly possible. Before his two race winning run (which has coincided with the application of a hood - he wears it again here), he was beaten by Melodic Rendezvous, and the margin of defeat there was similar to Pendra's, which implies Mr Watson might have a similar chance to the favourite at a slightly bigger price.

Coral Cup Tips

Clearly, luck in running as well as being favoured by race conditions and having a workable handicap mark are all required to get to the jamstick in front here. That's an unfathomable combination to crack, so it makes sense to side - small stakes - with horses at a price.

Decent Each Way play: Meister Eckhart
Other possible each way plays: Barbatos, Mr Watson

Most firms are going five places here. Click here to check who is and who isn't.

4.40 FRED WINTER JUVENILE HANDICAP HURDLE GRADE 3 (CLASS 1) (4yo) (2m 1/2f)

One of the new races, the Fred Winter is growing in class but remains a very trappy puzzle, largely because of the ability lights being hidden under handicap mark bushels. Or, to put it another way, trainers trying to get their horses well handicapped!

Fred Winter Key Trends

7/8 winners had run twice since January 1st

5/8 winners won last time out (+29.50 to level stakes)

7/8 winners had run within 30 days

8/8 winners made British/Irish debut after 30th November

7/8 winners failed to win until at least their third run

Fred Winter Form Preview

This, like the novices handicap chase on the first day, is a plotters' race. Those who show their ability to the handicapper too early get whacked with an uncompetitive weight, and the winner of this race usually improves about ten pounds on what they've previously achieved (publicly). There's also a really interesting trend towards the best flat rated horse running very well.

Only one winner was rated higher than 130, and I'll use that as a ceiling here, with those capable of that (and more) but rated much lower my focus.

Last time out winners have also performed extremely well, and using the key trends above my shortlist is Saphir Du Rheu, Ptit Zig, Another Sensation, Habesh, and Ibsen.

Let's start with the Nicholls pair. Saphir Du Rheu and Ptit Zig have similar profiles, both having been acquired from France, and both having had just the one run this year. Saphir Du Rheu was impressive when slamming God Of The Kop, while Ptit Zig put the useful bumper horse, New Years Eve in his place.

The form of neither race has worked out so far however, with Ptit Zig's contest seeing twelve horses race since, none win and only two place. Saphir's race can at least boast one winner from the ten subsequent runners.

Another Sensation is a really interesting one. Apparently working very well, his form is nothing to speak of. But... he was only about four lengths down and closing when unseating at the last at Sandown last time, having been a good ten lengths back at the second last. That burst of speed marks him up as a contender here, if his jumping holds up.

Habesh would have been seriously interesting on decent ground. A winner of a heavy ground juvenile hurdle on his third start last September, he's not been seen since in National Hunt circles. But he has had two runs on the flat at Dundalk and improved nicely from the first to the second of those. His trainer is adamant that he's way better on good ground and it looks like the plot might have come unstuck with the rain. Nevertheless, he's a better chance than his price implies.

And lastly, my eye is drawn to a horse rated in the 50's on the flat, Ibsen. Yes, I appreciate that might sound daft, but Mysilv was only rated 63 on the flat and she was able to win a Triumph, so it is possible. Anyway, this fellow was a late developer, not winning until his seventh flat start, and that in a field of sixteen. He proved that was no fluke by doubling up next time in higher class, and a field of nine.

But I suspect he needs a strong pace to go at, as his previous best performance had been when fifth of 23. In three runs over hurdles, he's yet to win. But he's also yet to be lower than second, and I'm pretty sure he'll be sticking on up the hill like a good'un, especially if they go fast early.

Obviously, not many of these picks are sexy top stables, which means the prices should hold. And of course, there's a chance they all run clunkers and my plot theory unravels. But, in a wide open race, I'd rather take a punt on a price than row in with a shortie, whichever beast history may record as the winner.

Fred Winter Tips

Clearly, not a straightforward race to handicap. I've elected to ignore the top ones, as history has shown that they have a heck of a lot to do here. And, in any case, if they were that good, they'd be running in the Triumph Hurdle, and not the consolation race.

Thereafter, it's a plotplotplot for me please.

Most interesting towards the top of the market: Another Sensation
Possible Irish jobs, and worthy of each way tickling: Habesh, Ibsen

5.15 WEATHERBYS CHAMPION BUMPER Grade 1 (CLASS 1) (4-6yo) (2m 1/2f)

Always a good test of raw horses, and very tricky to find a winner from so many unexposed 'could be anything' beasts generally.

Weatherbys Champion Bumper Key Stats

Big field experience seems crucial. Champagne Fever became the first horse not to have previously won a bumper with at least thirteen runners. And he was second in one!

The last nine winners all won last time out, and thirteen of the last fifteen did too.

11/15 won by five year olds, with three won by six year olds and the 4yo Cue Card completing the last fifteen years.

11/15 won by the Irish (six for Willie Mullins)

Weatherbys Champion Bumper Form Preview

Sheesh, where do we start here? It's a race where every horse could be nice in future, and it's not a race in which I'll be betting, truth be told. If you must have a bet, then here are some thoughts, for what they're worth.

The obvious place to start is with Willie Mullins, given that he's won six of the last fifteen runnings. Of his trio of entries, Union Dues might be the pick, but all of them have been running in small fields and this is a different story.

Golantilla is the highest rated on official figures, and he has won both a point-to-point and his bumper in easy fashion. He was 'expected' when winning at Cork the last day, and has since changed hands for a bundle of cash. Sure to be a lovely chaser in due course, the form of the bumper hasn't worked out yet, though it's not the fault of the thirteen length victor.

Regal Encore is trained by Anthony Honeyball, who trains a horse for the geegeez syndicate, and I'd absolutely love it (in Kevin Keegan parlance) if this fellow - snapped up by JP McManus - could give Anthony a maiden Festival winner. Certainly, he's murdered all-comers in his two runs to date, the latter an eight length battering of Be Bop Boru at Chepstow.

That win was every bit as impressive as Golantilla's, and that's why he's second top rated, a pound behind the Irish horse. It's a race which has worked out well too, with the second and sixth winning three races between them, and the third, fourth and fifth all making the frame since.

Le Vent d'Antan ran green as grass on debut, but was still six lengths too good for the rest, and he's another lovely big chaser-in-the-making (apologies for the cliche, I've used hyphens to accentuate the point!). But he took his time to pick up there, and the five horses to come out of the race have managed just one place between them.

Yes, it seems the pick of the form might be with Mr Honeyball's beast, and I'll be screaming the place down if that's clambering the hill with McCoy in full drive. Good luck, Anthony!

Weatherbys Champion Bumper Tips

Not a race to go mad in, but Regal Encore sets a good standard, and a layoff is no bad thing in this contest. Golantilla and Union Dues head the 'respected' category, but it's one of those races where whatever wins will make sense after the event, so don't go too mad here.

Best (and most wanted) each way selection: Regal Encore
Others with obvious chances: Golantilla, Union Dues

Plenty of firms offering four places on this race, so click here to check your bookie is!

And that brings us to half way. It will have been a challenging run so far, and very well done if you get to the half time oranges level or, heaven help you, in front. But there will be many more battles to come over the final two days, and geegeez will be right there with you. So stay tuned. And the very best of luck for your day two Wednesday wagers.

Matt

RSA Chase 2013 Preview, Trends, Tips

RSA Chase 2013 Preview

Can Dynaste win the RSA Chase 2013?

RSA Chase 2013 Preview, Trends, Tips

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.

Your first 30 days for just £1

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).

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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.

RSA Chase 2013 Ante Post Tip: Highland Lodge, 1pt win 25/1 sportingbet. Now 16/1 with sportingbet, so take BetVictor's 20/1, which is non-runner free bet (best offer online just now).