Cheltenham Day 2: The RSA Chase

A brief history of the RSA Chase combined with a preview of this year's race, concluding with a selection for the event.

14.05 on Wednesday March 11 will see the start of the RSA Chase. The race is open to horses aged five or older and includes 19 fences over a distance of three miles and 110 yards.

The race was first run in 1946 and was originally known as the Broadway Novices’ Chase. From 1964 to 1973 it was sponsored by Tote and called the Totalisator Champion Novices’ Chase. RSA have backed the event since 2009, having previously sponsored it along with Sun Alliance and Royal & Sun Alliance (after a merger) between 1974 and 2008.

Pat Taafe is the leading jockey in the race with five wins and Fulke Walwyn is the leading trainer with four wins. Previous winners of the race include the fantastic Denman, the awesome Arkle, and Lord Windermere, last season’s Gold Cup winner.

When looking for the profile of an RSA Chase winner, it’s important to take into account the distance of the race. This means we need to take a closer look at breeding.

The last two winners were both descendants of Oscar, and before that Bob Back had a win and a second-place finish from four runners. Presenting has two wins and three places from nine runners in the race.

Irish-bred horses have had 72 runners (59 per cent of all runners) in the last ten years, with nine winning and 14 placing. French-bred horses have accounted for 27 runners with one winner and two places. British-bred horses have placed four times from 19 runners, and the remaining mix of nationalities have five runners and zero places.

There has been one winner and one place from five runners aged five. Both five-year-olds that finished in the top three were French-bred. Seven-year-olds have accounted for nine winners and ten places from 63 runners; they have won each of the last eight races, with 51 per cent of the runners in the last ten years. Six-year-olds and eight-year-olds have both had four places from a combined 42 runners, with just one nine-year-old placing from 13 runs. Mares (female horses) have had five runners in the last ten years with none placing or winning.

Interestingly, one winner and one place from the three French horses that finished in the top three were five years old. From French horses aged six or older, there has been one place out of 22 runners.

Nine out of ten winners finished in the first two last time out, posting a Racing Post Rating (RPR) of 150+. These winners had their last run between 24 and 55 days before the race, having run in at least three chases, with a maximum of five appearances.

Six out of six British-trained winners had run in a maximum of four chases, and three of four Irish-trained winners had run in a maximum of five chases. Nine out of ten winners had won a chase and/or a hurdle race at a left-handed track. Nine out of ten winners had won over two miles and five furlongs. Ten out of ten winners had finished in the top three in a grade one or grade two chase. Ten out of ten winners had between three and nine runs over hurdles, with none of the winners having run in a flat race. Eight of the last ten winners were rated over 135 over hurdles by the Racing Post.

Last season’s Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle is a good indicator, as both previous victors that entered the next season’s RSA Chase went on to win it.

Paul Nicholls has saddled twelve runners in the last ten renewals, with two of those winning and one placing. Willie Mullins has saddled twelve runners, with one winner and two places. The most interesting statistic from these runners is that six of the last twelve have fallen, leaving one win and three places from six completions. Faller Insurance could be a value bet on a Willie Mullins horse.

Gordon Elliot, Alan King, Mouse Morris and Philip Hobbs have each saddled two runners, culminating in one place finish in the last ten renewals. Irish-trained runners have won the last four out of six renewals from 37 runners. Favourites have won three of the last ten renewals showing a level stakes profit of 45 pence.

So what profile are we looking for in our selections? We want a horse that is either an Irish-bred seven-year-old or a French-bred five-year-old. It’s a positive if it’s a descendant of Oscar, Presenting or Bob Back – preferably Oscar. It should have finished in the top two last time out, posting a Racing Post Rating of 150+. The selection’s last run must have been between 24 and 55 days ago, and it should have had three to five runs over fences this season. The horse must have finished in the first three in all of its completed chase starts, and it must also have finished in the first three in a grade one or grade two race. It’s imperative for the selection to have won a race at a left-handed track this season. The selection needs to have won over a distance of two miles and five furlongs, having run a maximum of nine times over hurdles with an official rating of 136+, and never having run on the flat. It’s preferable if the horse won last season’s Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, and has been trained by either Willie Mullins or Paul Nicholls.

When judged on the 13 selection criteria above, four horses top scored with nine trends. Interestingly, they all have the same trends apart from Southfield Theatre, which is the only horse not to have won over a distance of two miles and five furlongs. Perhaps this is slightly harsh, as it has won over two miles and four-and-a-half furlongs, but it has also take part in races with fewer runners and arguably less class. The four horses are King’s Palace, Southfield Theatre, Apache Stronghold and If In Doubt.

My recommendation is for a 5/1 single on King’s Palace, who has good course form having won at Cheltenham previously, and a saver on Apache Stronghold each-way at 20/1. However, it’s important to be aware that a further four horses scored eight out of thirteen, so large stakes are not advisable.

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