THE RSA Chase can often make or break a horse. Yes, it has produced future Cheltenham Gold Cup winners such as Mandarin, Bobs Worth and Denman and, of course, the ultimate National Hunt icon in Arkle. But it can be a cruel race that can leave its mark on a young animal and many trainers prefer to aim their charges at one of the handicaps or give it a miss completely. No RSA winner in the 1980s went on to win the Gold Cup while in the 90s only Garrison Savannah and Looks Like Trouble won the RSA before grabbing Gold Cup glory.
Denman and Bobs Worth are the only RSA winners of the noughties so far to go on and win racing’s blue riband. So it is not always a superstar that wins the “Gold Cup for novice chasers”. Hussard Collonges, Canny Danny, Envopak Token were all decent beasts but hardly household names and were a long way from being Gold Cup material. So what does all this mean? Well, one conclusion is that the RSA can often be won by a horse at a decent price…
This year’s market leaders BALLYCASEY and SMAD PLACE are well worth their place at the head of the market. They have always thought the world of Ballycasey at Willie Mullins’ Co Carlow base and he is unbeaten in two runs over fences. But he does lack big race experience. In addition, his sole defeat came in his only attempt at three miles. However, he is also entered in the four-mile National Hunt Chase, so there appears to be no stamina doubts among connections.
SMAD PLACE is a little more streetwise after two excellent thirds in the World Hurdle in 2012 and 2013. But I suspect he will need the ground to be soft to be seen to best effect.
So the 2014 RSA Chase could be primed for a bit of an upset. Normally it would not be a shock to see the Feltham Novices’ Chase winner go on to win the RSA. But Kempton victor ANNACOTTY is available at 20/1.
He was brilliant on Boxing Day and confirmed that was no fluke with an admirable weight-carrying performance at Cheltenham in January when just failing to hold off Indian Castle. The key to Annacotty’s performance will be if Ian Popham can get him to dominate and get him out in front. He is entered in other races but the owner’s racing manager Hannah Bishop said he was “99.9%” certain to go for the RSA. The 20/1 still available is excellent each-way value, although slightly insulting to a rapidly improving horse and Grade One winner.
LE BEC has done nothing wrong and is another who is overpriced at 16/1 while Paul Nicholls seems very sweet on SAM WINNER’S chance. MANY CLOUDS was beaten by O’FAOLAINS BOY at Ascot but could reverse that form if ridden with a little bit more restraint. He is a gorgeous horse.
But, for me, ANNACOTTY has the credentials to win at Cheltenham and give a wonderful thrill to owner Liz Prowting who has been a staunch supporter of National Hunt racing for about 30 years.