The RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase takes place at 2.10pm on Wednesday the 13th of March on the Old Course at Cheltenham. It is a Grade 1 over 3 miles and a half a furlong, with £175,000 prize-money on offer.
The RSA attracts a smaller field nowadays, averaging 11 for the last five years and as a result can be less attritional of a test than once was. The JLT and the National Hunt Chase really dilute the field.
31 remain entered for the novice chase with a max of twenty that can run but I think there will be less than a dozen run here again.
Six out of the last twelve favs have won.
Nine of the last twelve winners have run at the festival before.
Willie Mullins has won it four times, Nicky Henderson three.
The Albert Bartlett can be a good guide; stamina is important. Class is, too, with eight of the last eleven winners having won a Grade 1 or 2 novice chase beforehand.
Experience is probably the biggest factor behind class and course form; match practice really helps.
Santini is Slow
Santini is a good horse. But I don’t get why he’s towrads the head of the betting or the love-in.
He has no tactical speed. And while stamina is a big asset in an RSA, you need to be classy enough to be involved at the crucial stage.
He made a nice debut in Newbury after being off a while. Deliberate at the fifth, hit the eleventh but improved as he winged the cross fence and stayed on nicely to win going away.
Santini was well held in the Kauto Star novice chase, done for speed turning for home and staying on when it was all over to be a closing third. That caught many peoples’ attention, and while he may improve for the stiff Cheltenham hill, he needs to be in touch at the bottom of it.
— Racing TV (@RacingTV) February 5, 2019
A well-backed favourite for last year’s Albert Bartlett, he got a good pace to run at, a sensibly-judged ride but didn’t land a blow despite finishing third.
He’s an awkward-looking ride too which isn’t remarked on much. The seven year-old was a good winner of a Grade 1 hurdle in Aintree after, so you can see why he has his fans, but the price is still based on potential rather than being a justified favourite.
Delta Work – The Solid Option
Three from three over chases and a winner of a Pertemps, why is he not favourite again?
Delta Work was workmanlike in Down Royal but learned a lot, showing a good attitude in the finish. That was magnified next time out in the BarOneRacing.com Drinmore at Fairyhouse on good ground over 2m4f. He was brilliant five fences out, travelled into the lead alongside Le Richebourg with class then sprinted down to the last upsides, got in tight, Davy Russell lost his irons and yet, on the short run in, Delta Work responded to beat the excellent Le Richebourg, again showing really likeable battling qualities.
— At The Races (@AtTheRaces) December 2, 2018
Delta Work was then unspectacular at Christmas at Leopardstown. But expectations are everything. Being an odds-on favourite coloured the analysis. The Gordon Elliott and Gigginstown trained gelding was still a comprehensive winner, clearing away at the line. That was despite being hampered by the fall of Ben Dundee at the fifth fence.
“He’s taken very well to fences…he was a little scatty over the first couple, but he has a brain” – Winning jockey Davy Russell praises the performance of Delta Work #Leopardstown pic.twitter.com/xTfimSEsWb
— RTÉ Racing (@RTEracing) December 29, 2018
Nicholls Still at the Top of his Game
Equine Flu, no need to worry. Nicholls camp have had their jabs in January and now they are punching. Topofthegame was second in the Coral Cup off 150. A point to point winner, he’s still a novice over fences and under rules, but don’t let that put you off. Left 20 lengths at the start of his chasing debut at Exeter, he worked his way back into the race, threatening two out before finishing a respectable second to JLT fav, Defi du Seuil by 3.5 lengths on soft.
A remarkable run from Topofthegame to finish second at Exeter given the ground he gave away at the start
— Racing TV (@RacingTV) December 7, 2018
Topofthegame was a little keen in the Kauto Star at Kempton at Christmas. The seven year old was a really good second to La Bague Au Roi who bypasses Cheltenham. He jumped and travelled really well, contesting to win the race before giving best late on. Topofthegame had Santini well held back in third in my view. He is a really classy type and can benefit from a patient ride in the RSA, making use of his jumping to stay in contention using little petrol. He has had two wind ops but they’re ten a penny these days and he doesn’t look like stopping in his races.
Topofthegame in the colours of the legend Denman and part owner Paul Barber could go the JLT route, he’d certainly have enough class and speed. But Paul Nicholls in a recent Q&A insisted he’ll only go there if it comes up bottomless.
Whittling Down the Dangers
OK Corral is set for the four miler, so too is Discorama. Champagne Classic also goes to the NH Chase according to Elliott. Chris’s Dream didn’t look to stay the Albert Bartlett, may not be good enough anyhow. That’s four of the front dozen in the betting sorted. Many of the others will go handicap route or make up the numbers here. Am I right in the head trusting trainer quotes? Time will tell.
****PLEASE NOTE THAT VINNDICATION WILL NOT NOW BE RUNNING IN THE RSA INSURANCES NOVICES’ CHASE AT CHELTENHAM****
Vinndication was really taking in his first six unbeaten starts. A likeable front runner, who bowled along, jumped straight as a gun barrel and fended off all comers each time to win impressively. The Kim Bailey 6 year old showing a liking for soft ground, two and a half miles but with a potential improvement up in trip due to his style of racing.
The Scilly Isles though was a comedown. Lugging right a few, out paced and staying on to be a fair third to Defi du Seuil and Lostintranslation meant he lost his allure and the unbeaten tag. Kim Bailey stated on Luck on Sunday he will go for the RSA after that. Vinndication definitely has potential over three miles. The trouble is can he get his own way in front up in grade and will he go left handed. I wouldn’t put anyone off at the prices but there’s enough to put me off.
— Racing TV (@RacingTV) February 3, 2019
The Worlds End is anything but consistent unfortunately. He does have class however and some course form. The Worlds End’s inconsistencies are factored into a big price and he could run well if good ground and getting into a rhythm early. Tom George’s 155 rated novice chaser needs to be the December Cheltenham horse and not the November version of last year.
Leading jumps owner Max McNeill joined us on #TheFridayClub tonight
He says his star horse The Worlds End now goes straight for the RSA Chase pic.twitter.com/9CsaFJeKuY
— Racing TV (@RacingTV) January 25, 2019
Delta Work and Topofthegame are really likeable from different jurisdictions. Both have Cheltenham form and high levels of form so far over chase fences. They both jump well and have class. The Kauto Star form from Kempton appeals to me most and the potential of Topofthegame. La Bague Au Roi won in Ireland but misses the festival so a chance is taken on Nicholls to once again bring a top class novice to the boil for the festival. Shades of Denman.
This race can cut up. Willie Mullins only has one entry at this stage. It has been a strange winter.