Matt Tombs / Tuesday 28th January 2014 / 15:25
In the RSA Chase there tend to be two types of winners. Some years it’s won by a star that outclasses the opposition, like subsequent Gold Cup winners Looks Like Trouble, Denman and Bobs Worth. If there isn’t a star it’s usually won by tough, strong galloping types, who often never win another big race - like Bostons Angel, Cooldine or Hussard Collonges.
To win you obviously need to stay well but also have the tactical speed to hold a position, (although with smaller fields now, that may be slightly less important.) Experience has, understandably, proved crucial in what’s usually such a tough race. Florida Pearl in 1998 was the last horse to win this off just 2 chase runs.
The RSA is a more difficult race to bet on ante-post now that there are level weights novice chases at 2m4f and 4m. The market reflects this though as, without an obvious star, its 8/1 the field and 12/1 bar one, with 17 horses quoted at 25/1 or shorter.
We’ll start by knocking out as many of those 17 as possible. Wonderful Charm (16/1) is going for the Jewson. Foxrock (25/1) and Sam Winner (20/1) look to be heading for the 4 miler. I’m less certain that Champagne Fever (14/1) and Taquin Du Seuil (14/1) won’t line up in this, but they’re both likely to run over shorter.
Gevrey Chambertin (20/1) hasn’t even run over fences yet, so can’t be backed. Smad Place (14/1) is trained by Alan King, and whilst his runners usually warrant maximum respect, they can’t be backed at the moment despite Valdez chalking up a first winner on Saturday for the stable since it re-opened. He’s one to look at closer to the race.
That leaves 10 at 25/1 or shorter. If there is a star in the making Ballycasey (8/1) is the most likely. He’s always been held in high regard by Willie Mullins’ team and, after a couple of easy hurdle wins, was challenging for favouritism for the Albert Bartlett, only to get injured and miss the race. He may not have fully recovered when only 7l 3rd to Morning Assembly in the 3m Grade 1 at the Punchestown Festival. He made his fencing debut over an inadequate 2m1f at Navan and stayed on strongly to beat subsequent winners Mount Colah and Ned Buntline easily.
He jumps and stays and could be anything. Whilst Willie Mullins continues to break all the rules, and was the man who trained Florida Pearl to win this off just 2 chases, he does remain short of experience. He also appears difficult to train and doesn’t look an ante-post proposition.
I’d been keen on Morning Assembly (12/1,) who’d beaten subsequent Grade 1 winner Don Cossack over 2m6f and looked sure to improve for a step up to 3m. However, he had no answers to Carlingford Lough (14/1) in the 3m Grade 1 at Leopardstown, which was really disappointing. When asked whether Carlingford Lough, (1/11 over fences coming into that race), might be one for the spring festivals after that Grade 1 win, AP McCoy made it clear he didn’t rate him near that level. Perhaps I’m underestimating the form - 3rd home Foxrock won a Grade 2 easily next time and Bright New Dawn and Mad Brian have both run well since.
Don Cossack (14/1), doesn’t look a stayer. I think the JLT is his race, although with the same owners Trifolium heading for the Arkle and Mozoltov not entered in the RSA, Don Cossack may well run here. Good ground would be a concern, whichever race he lines up in.
Le Bec (16/1) was 28l 6th to At Fishers Cross in the Albert Bartlett but has made a better chaser, winning 2 out of 3. He was beaten 4l by Sam Winner (who was getting 8lb) last time. Le Bec needs to improve to be in the shake up for the RSA – he looks like the type who might struggle to hold his position if they go quickly.
Mendip Express (20/1) has won his last 9 in points and chases, winning a decent handicap at Cheltenham off 139, (extended 3m2f, soft.) He’s progressing really well and is the unflashy type to still be galloping when others cry enough. However, he’s been ridden by leading amateur Will Biddick this season, and given how well he stays, the 4 miler must be the more likely option.
Annacotty (25/1) won what was possibly the worst ever renewal of the Grade 1 Kauto Star Chase, (formerly the Feltham). He was a solid 2nd to Indian Castle at Cheltenham off 144 on Saturday and looks a handicapper. He does have lots of experience (7 chases already) and its feasible to see him being placed, but hard to see him winning.
For those looking for a longer shot, two catch the eye. Paul Nicholls’ Benvolio (33/1) is something of an unknown quantity. He has an old fashioned RSA profile having won a point and been low key over hurdles, (won a handicap off 126, ending up rated 133,) but has come into his own over fences. After falling at the first on debut he’s won a novice handicap off 133 and then a graduation chase. That form is hard to weigh up – he heads to the Reynoldstown next and we’ll know more about his chances after that.
Uxizandre (33/1) is interesting. He was a reasonable 19½l 5th in the Albert Bartlett last season and is 2 from 2 over fences. He gave Funny Star 7lb and beat him 18l at Plumpton, (2m4f, good to soft) which looks good form after the runner up won his next two easily, earning a rating of 141. The vibes are he’s more likely to go for the JLT, (with Smad Place running in this.) With Alan King’s yard emerging from a shut down, he can’t be backed now, but is one to consider nearer the time.
I think the key form lines concern Black Thunder (25/1). He was a useful hurdler, (running well when falling 2 out in the Coral Cup off 145). He won his first 3 over fences beating good sorts Fox Appeal, Many Clouds (25/1) and Shotgun Paddy.
That form has real depth as Many Clouds thumped Indian Castle by 16l and Indian Castle then won a handicap off 135 at Cheltenham. Shotgun Paddy has subsequently won the Classic Chase easily off 145 and Fox Appeal has earned 3 consecutive RPRs of 150 or more since. Even allowing for the horses he’s beaten to have improved, that looks really good novice form.
However, Black Thunder could never really land a blow when 2½l 2nd to all the way winner Corrin Wood (14/1) at Haydock, (extended 3m, heavy,) in what was possibly the best staying novice chase run so far. Corrin Wood has won all 3 of his chases and seems pretty flexible groundwise. He can jump a little to the right but he’s so quick, whether off a long or short stride, I doubt that’ll be a real problem. He’s the classic sort of bold jumping, front runner that’ll get the inexperienced chasers in trouble in the first couple of miles of the RSA.
Some will look at Corrin Wood’s form and think, because he hasn’t contested a graded race, it can’t be that strong. Whilst some of the contenders haven’t been given official handicap marks yet, Corrin Wood is the top rated of these 10 contenders who have (156) and is also the top rated on RPRs (159). Whilst official ratings of novices aren’t that reliable at this stage of the season, the context is that if Corrin Wood runs to that mark of 156 in the RSA, it’s theoretically been good enough to win 6 of the last 10 renewals.
A concern is that he might run in the 4 miler instead as he stays well, but Donald McCain said that he was keen that Jason Maguire stays on him and is therefore favouring the RSA. Given his attacking front running style, he doesn’t exactly look an amateur’s ride, so that makes sense.
He doesn’t have experience in a big field chase, which would normally be a worry. However, given he’s a confirmed front runner, that shouldn’t be an issue as he won’t have many horses around him anyway. Whilst we don’t know what may line up that wants to take him on for the lead, its worth noting none of the other main protagonists are front runners, so he might get his own way out front.
At this stage it doesn’t look a sexy renewal – I’m struggling to remember a season when the form of the graded staying novice chases looked so weak. It might look better in hindsight, but Corrin Wood ended the unbeaten run of a Grade 2 winner last time and his form looks really strong. He’s had only the ‘minimum’ 3 chases and whilst another run would probably help, he has such a straightforward racing style, 3 is probably enough. He’s not a flashy quickener, but looks just the type of fast jumping, relentless galloper that wins the RSA when there isn’t a future Gold Cup horse in the field.
1pt Corrin Wood to win the RSA Chase @ 14/1