Cheltenham Festival Clues: RSA Chase 2014 Preview

Seven-year-olds have been dominant in the RSA Chase. Winners of this race rarely arrive with an unblemished chase record. Indeed, last year’s winner Lord Windermere, had lost four of his five chase starts before winning the RSA. This often means that unfancied horses have caused an upset, with winners returning at 16’s, 14’s and 25/1 over the past ten years. This year’s market is headed by the Willie Mullins trained Ballycasey. He recently won the Dr PJ Moriarty Novices’ Chase at Leopardstown; a race that has been contested by four previous RSA winners in the last ten years. He won the race well, though Carlingford Lough’s fall at the last was disappointing from a form-line point of view. He does lack experience having only run twice over fences, though his jumping has been impeccable so far. Morning Assembly is next best in the betting for the Irish. Off the track since his second in the Topaz Chase at Christmas, his trainer was keen to keep him away from the worst of the winter ground. The lack of a prep-run is a slight worry, but he has shaped as though the trip and stiff finish at Cheltenham will be ideal. Carlingford Lough is also near the head of the market. A second season chaser, he has progressed from handicaps to become a leading fancy for the RSA. He defeated Morning Assembly over Christmas in a slowly run affair, which may have suited him. He was still in with a shout in the Moriarty when coming down at the last. You would just feel that he lacks the quality to win the RSA and in a strongly run race, over three miles, he may struggle to land a blow. Smad Place was last seen beating Sam Winner at Newbury in heavy ground. It was an impressive win from a horse that would prefer a sounder surface. Twice placed in the World Hurdle, he clearly runs well at Cheltenham. RSA winners tend to go straight from novice hurdling to novice chasing, so his profile is not ideal. His bare form over fences is not good enough, but Smad Place looks a classy type, and could be the best of the Brits. Corrin Wood was last seen winning at Warwick. He’s won all three of his chase starts, and is an enthusiastic jumper. Again, the bare form looks short of what is needed here, and he has a tendency to jump right, which is far from ideal. He’s likely to be ridden prominently, but I’m not sure he has the quality to be there at the business end. Many Clouds and O’Faolains Boy were last seen fighting it out at Ascot. Both are set to make nice chasers, but I’d be surprised if either were good enough to win this. Don Cossack cannot possibly reverse form with Ballycasey, whilst Annacotty is surely a decent handicapper rather than an RSA winner. Le Bec is probably the one at a price that has the class to make a place, though he’s still only six. He ran a blinder in the Albert Bartlett last year before fading in the final stages. A large framed horse, he was always going to need time and was certain to make a better chaser than hurdler. He’s got valuable experience at Cheltenham over fences having won in November before finishing second in December behind Sam Winner, giving plenty of weight away. He’ll need decent ground to be seen at his best. In summary: Ballycasey is the most likely winner. Smad Place Class act and therefore NB Le Bec looks the each-way value. For daily previews and tips throughout the Cheltenham Festival, sign-up for Community Membership – find out more. JP