The RSA Chase has seen a resurgence in recent years of producing future Gold Cup winners, but it looks unlikely that 2016 winner Blaklion will be adding his name to the roll of honour.
The 2017 vintage looks a wide-open renewal with the current favourite Might Bite, who certainly has his fragilities. Injury has seen Coney Island drop out of the reckoning for the race next week, and there is sure to be more who head down the handicap route rather than take up this engagement.
RSA Chase 2017
Scorpion x Knotted Midge (Presenting)
Notes: A horse who clearly has his quirks but has improved with experience over fences and was in the process of drawing to a resounding victory in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day before falling at the last. He returned at Doncaster in February to record a wide-margin victory over inferior opposition and that will have put him spot on for this assignment. Quite whether he has the stomach for a fight remains open to question and this is renowned to be a very hard race – he is one to be against in my opinion.
Alpha Des Obeaux
Saddler Maker x Omega Des Obeaux (Saint Preuil)
Notes: The gelding took high rank over hurdles last season finishing second to Thistlecrack in the 2016 World (now Stayers) Hurdle. He made a pleasing start over fences winning his first two outings, before meeting with defeat in the Drinmove Novices’ at Fairyhouse at the start of December. He was then pulled up on his final start at Leopardstown after breaking a blood vessel, and would need to become the only the second horse in 12 years to win this race without racing in 2017 – Don Poli was the only other horse to manage that feat.
Astarabad x Belle Yepa (Mansonnien)
Notes: Didn’t take to fences at the first time but has resumed over the discipline well, after a brief try back over hurdles. He was all out to beat Clan Des Obeaux at Cheltenham on New Years Day over the slightly shorter distance, and he was unable to make the grade at this distance over hurdles, so that has to be a concern for me. He is a sturdier conveyance out of the two Nicky Henderson runners, but has only won over this distance on the flatter track of Aintree so I’d be concerned about him getting home in a truly run RSA Chase.
Network x Jasmine (Valanjou I)
Notes: It has been said he won’t run unless there is plenty of juice in the ground, that remains open to question but his most recent victory at Navan really caught the eye. The manner in which he travelled through the race before outpointing all his rivals’ silly lives long in the memory, and were he to turn up in a similar vein of form next week he would certainly be one of the more interesting ones.
Malinas x Grande Sultane (Garde Royale)
Notes: Two wins from two over fences so far and the impression he made when pulling readily clear of his rivals at Warwick last time up was of a high-class individual. He got tired late on but you can allow him that given the big move he made through the latter third of the race. Certainly a better chaser than hurdler, Harry Fry will have him cherry ripe for his assignment at the Cheltenham Festival and is very much one of the more prominent types of lifting this prize.
King’s Theatre x Fairy Native (Be My Native)
Notes: Was my idea of the winner of this race prior to take a crashing fall at the last in the Flogas Novices’ Chase at Leopardstown on his most recent outing. Prior to that he looked a high-class individual over fences and the return to better ground could be the making of him. He looks sure to play a hand in the finish if he does go down this route, and despite an unorthodox prep in falling before taking this race, you couldn’t rule him out.
King’s Theatre x Summer Break (Foxhound)
Notes: A grade 1 winner over fences this term but would have been a long-distance second had Might Bite not exited at the last with the race at his mercy. He has however followed that win up with a handicap victory off a 12lb higher mark, winning by a strong 8 lengths off a mark of 143. That sort of form puts him right into the shake-up here, he needs to improve again but is admirably consistent and looks an improved runner for the application of the tongue-tie and blinkers.
Coney Island is injured and won’t be running at The Festival.
Disko would be of interest but almost certainly looks sure to line up in the JLT Novices’ Chase instead where he holds very strong claims of upsetting the Yorkhill applecart.
Edwulf looks more likely to head towards the NH Chase which he is very much to the fore of lifting that prize. His recent victory reads well and he couldn’t be discounted if he turns up here instead.
Singlefarmpayment is a horse I like a lot and will certainly win his fair share of races but his targets this Festival look more likely to be handicaps than this but if he did turn up for this you’d expect him to run a race full of credit.
Tiger Roll is another who looks more likely to head towards the NH Chase, his form read quite well prior to a defeat at Cheltenham and hasn’t been seen since a third at Wexford back in October – far from an ideal prep.
O O Seven boasts two victories from three starts over fences and holds an entry in both the Ultima Handicap Chase on day 1, and this. Will need to improve if he takes up this engagement but certainly has plenty of stamina and would appreciate the better ground.
Our Kaempfer will be heading in this direction, and prior to his victory at Kempton off 138 has been a slow learner over fences. He was an emphatic winner of that outing and has the RSA Chase as his target for this season. The way he travels through his races will always give him a chance, and better ground will also suit.
Strictly on form the manner of victory posted by Might Bite when falling at the last in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton suggests he’ll be very tough to beat in this race. He is a horse though that has had resolution problems in the past, and I do question his stomach in the heat of a battle.
He was left alone to dominate when winning at Kempton and there is absolutely no chance he’ll be able to do that at Cheltenham next week, and I fully expect him to curl up when one of his rivals serve it up to him.
Bellshill was my idea of the winner of this race before that heavy fall in the Flogas at Leopardstown last month, and would need to show distinct character to recover from that and win this gruelling test.
Royal Vacation has been admirably consistent improving through the ranks over fences and is the sort of horse you can rely on to run his race. The application of the tongue-tie and blinkers seems to have squeezed out extra improvement in this Kings Theatre gelding and I expect him to be on the premises.
Alpha Des Obeaux hasn’t been seen since breaking a blood vessel when disappointing and hasn’t been seen yet in 2017, a stat which doesn’t bode well for his RSA Chase claims.
Whisper has gradually taken to fences but his wins over this distance over hurdles came on flatter more speed favouring tracks. This will be a gruelling test that’ll draw the sting out of him, and I think he’s going to struggle to get up the hill at the end of a strong gallop.
Singlefarmpayment if routed down this direction (currently Ultima Chase bound) would be of interest at larger prices. We haven’t seen the best of him over fences as yet and he will surprise a few in this if he ran.
The two which make most appeal to me are Acapella Bourgeois and American. The former has been said that if they don’t get significant rain at The Festival he won’t be risked, but if I were connections I’d give it a go. He clocked a fantastic time-figure when routing his field by 32-lengths on his most recent start, and is currently at the peak of his powers, in what is an open and winnable RSA Chase.
American on the other hand has been quite fragile so far for Harry Fry and has been seen only sparingly. Two runs over fences this term has yielded two victories, his Warwick victory last time the more impressive of the two. Clearly high-class, he has a really good cruising speed and wouldn’t be inconvenienced by quicker ground – one of the more likely types.
I’m going to take the plunge and side with Acapella Bourgeois in the hope we get the rain required for him to participate, but we’ll do so with the NRNB concession so that we lose nothing if he doesn’t.