The penultimate preview, and final chase race piece, sees Declan Rix tackle the RSA Chase. A novice race for staying types, jumping and stamina, as well as class, are the attributes needed to win. Run on the second day of the Festival on the Old Course, who does our man feel is the best value bet at this stage?
RSA Chase ante-post preview
Before getting into the cold hard facts and figures of the 2016 RSA Chase, we had a feeling this year’s renewal was shaping up to be a two-horse contest. Having gone through the numbers, the video form and just generally had a closer look at the entries, we are now even stronger on the above feeling.
The horses in question you ask? More Of That and No More Heroes. Hardly a surprise when you look at our betting market which sees the pair equally prices at 9/4. Just under six points bigger comes the next horse with a whole host of entries on the third favourite’s tail.
It’s More Of That and No More Heroes the ones to concentrate on and given our traders can’t split them, we’ll let the alphabet have it’s say and start with former.
Already a Cheltenham Festival winner, some feel More Of That should be outright favourite for this year’s RSA. His 2014 beating of Annie Power in the World Hurdle is the outstanding piece of form on offer in this contest and should the son of Beneficial match that effort, he’ll be extremely tough to beat.
Reportedly struggling with his wind, connections had that issue seen to, but it meant he missed the rest of the season.
The strapping chestnut has returned this campaign though, and is now unbeaten in two starts. Wins at Cheltenham on the Old Course in November and the New Course in December mean he now has an unblemished record from four starts at Prestbury Park.
It was great to see JP McManus’s horse appear to enjoy both his visits to the track this season. Racing generously into the bridle, More Of That’s jumping has been sound. On his chase debut he was economical, brilliant at some, but safe first-and-foremost.
Next time out, Jonjo O’Neill’s inmate improved in the jumping department, maybe only slightly, but given he’s not an extravagant leaper, it’s hard to see him ever taking the eye here. And why should he? A horse sure to be running over staying distances, this trait sees him conserve energy.
In terms of the form, his two wins look extremely solid. Beating a race-fit As De Mee (rated 140) by two-and-a-half lengths on debut was a beautiful start. Truth be told, that distance doesn’t do him justice, he was far superior.
The beating of another Paul Nicholls horse, Sametegal, on his next start now looks top-class novice form with said equine now officially rated 149. Giving him 3lb and an easy 13 lengths beating, that level speaks for itself.
Officially however, the handicapper has No More Heroes 5lb clear of More Of That, on 158. An unlucky third in last season’s Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the Festival, his transition to fences has been facile.
Like his nearest market rival, the seven-year-old is unbeaten over fences, but is so in three starts meaning he goes to Cheltenham with an experience edge. The son of Presenting also brings Grade 1-winning form over the larger obstacles, something More Of That can’t boast.
Before winning at the top-level life over fences started in fine style for Gordon Elliott’s charge at Punchestown where an intelligent and pretty natural round of jumping helped contribute to an easy five length success. That form was nothing to write home about, but it was the style of victory that impressed.
So charmed were connections by that win a step up into Grade 1 company next time out in the Drinmore Novice Chase followed. Another win came and despite him probably being in the right position given the slack early pace, it shouldn’t detract from a snug victory.
The Gigginstown horse would make it his second top-level victory over Christmas at Leopardstown in a similarly played out race. Off the sedate fractions – on what was heavy ground – No More Heroes impressed in the closing stages of the race, quickening impressively to win by nine lengths.
A useful 145-rated novice hurdler last season, there is little doubt the son of Kayf Tara is a better chaser. Officially marked 150 coming into the Festival, that proves the point, but jumping fences really seems to bring out the best in him.
Five starts he’s had over the larger obstacles with form figures reading 4F121. Like those numbers suggest, Nigel Twiston-Davies’s horse is improving and there’s a chance a race like the RSA could eke out further progress.
A straight-forward character who travels sweetly through his races, but also stays well, a controlled aggressive ride from near the front could see Blaklion shake up the market leaders. As he has shown in most of his starts, sound jumping is another facet to his game.
While a fall dented his record four starts back, his two most recent wins at Cheltenham and Wetherby really highlighted his leaping prowess. Even when dropped to a trip too sharp two runs back in the Grade 2 Dipper Novices’ Chase, when second, the standard remained high.
There is plenty to like about Blaklion, he’s everything you’d want in a staying chaser, but it remains to seen if he has the class to conqueror the market leaders. He stays extremely well.
Similar comments to apply to last season’s unlucky fourth in the Neptune Investment Novices’ Hurdle at the Festival, Vyta Du Roc. A bad mistake at the final flight cost him and his backers dearly, especially those each-way players. There is little doubt he shaped like the second best horse.
He then went on to finish a sound but ultimately well-beaten second behind Thistlecrack at Aintree’s Grand National meeting before embarking on a chase career this season. Over the larger obstacles, you could describe his progress as quietly progressive.
Nicky Henderson started his grey off over an inadequate trip at Bangor on heavy ground, but it didn’t stop him from winning the near-minimum trip contest.
Next time out he would be turned over at odds of 2/5 and while on face value it was a poor run, he was beaten by a useful horse while conceding plenty of weight. The intermediate trip of two-and-a-half miles also looked on the sharp side.
Having looked like he was coming up well short where Grade 1 races were concerned, the son of Lion Noir finally threw his hat into the RSA ring when winning the Grade 2 Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase at Ascot.
Jumping proficiently on soft ground over the three mile trip, under Daryl Jacob he’d run out a half-length winner. He shaped like he was superior than that distance however, so probably deserves a mark-up.
Best of the Rest
Northern trainer Sandy Thompson has a lovely horse on his hands in Seeyouatmidnight who ran a fine race is last season’s World Hurdle behind Cole Harden. In the end, he was beaten over 12 lengths into seventh, but he shaped much better than that.
A horse who’s made for chasing, his bold quick jumping helped guide him to a Grade 2 success at Cheltenham in the Dipper Novices’ Chase where he fended off Blaklion, although he was receiving weight.
With soft and heavy ground really suiting him, we wonder will Cheltenham spring terrain allow him to show his best? His quick fluent jumping also means we felt the JLT Novices’ Chase, run a day later, was a better option.
The Willie Mullins and Graham Wylie-owned pair of Black Hercules and Shaneshill we already discussed in more detail in our JLT preview. Since that piece, neither horse has been confirmed for a race, it’s likely one will run here and the other in the JLT. With that being the case, we’ll have to leave them alone from an ante-post perspective.
Another Willie Mullins horse to get a positive mention is Roi Des Francs, a fine big staying chaser who has form figures reading 211. He won the Grade 2 Woodlands Park 100 Novice Chase at Naas last time out where his stamina eventually won the day.
Connections are reportedly leaning this way, in terms of which race to run in, but the National Hunt Chase over four miles looks a better option for him.
His jumping, while fine, is also a bit awkward and slow at times. He spends plenty time in the air and we sense he might be a bit rushed off his feet in an RSA on decent ground.
If one horse is capable of running better than his current odds suggests, it’s Monksland. He was a classy enough hurdler in his time, but he’s been a horse plagued by injuries and setbacks.
That said, he appears to be healthy this season since going over fences. Having won on debut where he beat Roi Des Francs, the son of Beneficial has yet to win since. He has been running well however, and on ground that doesn’t suit.
On spring terrain at Cheltenham he may improve. Hopefully it progresses his jumping which hasn’t been great at times, if it does, he could be ridden for a place and pick up the pieces.
The BetBright Verdict
There is little point wasting time with this year’s RSA Chase, it’s a two-horse race and it concerns More Of That and No More Heroes.
While there are plenty nice types in the line-up, barring accidents, it would be quite a big upset should one of the aforementioned pair not win.
Heading the chasing pack is the admirable Blaklion. There is so much to like about this horse. He is straight-forward, honest, jumps well and will be right at home on spring ground. He looks a proper stayer and when many have cried enough, he’ll be battling on.
The New Course would have suited him better and while we like him, he’s not good enough to beat the front two and at a price of 8/1 makes little appeal.
At just two points bigger, Vyta Du Roc (10/1) is another that doesn’t look good enough. His latest win in the Reynoldstown marks him down as a Grade 2 winner, but with him beating a slow horse in second and another who gave him weight in third, the form leaves plenty to be desired.
He has Festival form though, and good ground may see him improve, to be fair to him, but he really needs to up his game to trouble the front two and even Blaklion on the evidence.
The potential fly in the ointment could be either Black Hercules or Shaneshill. Over this trip, Black Hercules would interest more rather than Shaneshill.
They are two are classy sorts, especially the latter, and with either one lining up here, it makes it tougher for horses to hit the frame. Essentially, if the front-two run their races, it means one spot is up for grabs for each-way punters.
After his 2014 World Hurdle success, there was a real buzz about this horse, a feeling he could be a superstar in the making. Health issues stopped that momentum last season, but from what we’ve seen this campaign, he has impressed.
He hasn’t run in 95 days and we must admit it’s a small concern, but his trainer is a dab-hand at producing horses on the day as he has shown many times at this very Festival.
Jonjo O’Neill’s horse has never been a flashy type, at home or on the racetrack, but that’s just the kind of animal we love, a horse that saves his best for racedays.
Many have crabbed his jumping, but a lack of fluency won’t get him beaten and should he win, an abundance of class will be the deciding factor. All aboard!
3pts win MORE OF THAT @9/4
Odds are provided at time of writing, please check your betslip to confirm they have not changed before betting.
READ MORE OF DECLAN’S CHELTENHAM 2016 ANTE-POST PREVIEWS: