Matt Tombs / Thursday 19th February 2015 / 15:48
My original RSA fancy Champagne West is injured and with Boylesports now offering NRNB, its time to look at the race again. In the 4 weeks since I originally looked at the RSA, the market has taken on a shape suggesting it’s on the verge of cutting up badly. In particular, the two form horses Coneygree and Don Poli, could easily end up in the Gold Cup and 4 miler respectively.
Coneygree (6/1) is the most likely winner if he turns up. His 40l Grade 1 victory in the Kauto Star at Christmas was hard to assess, but his Denman Chase win was top class form for a novice. It’s always easier for novices to earn big ratings in open company, but he beat a really solid 162 yardstick in Houblon Des Obeaux easily, earning a rating of 166. If he goes for this and runs to that form, it’ll take an exceptional novice to beat him. The problem is that connections are understandably considering the Gold Cup and I think that’s where he’ll run. He’s 7/2 NRNB and I’d expect him to start shorter if he runs in this, (though how much shorter will be impacted by where Don Poli lines up,) so he’s likely to be a profitable back-to-lay play for the arbitragers.
Such is his dominance that Willie Mullins has got used to dictating where the horses he trains run – even to the biggest owners. There does look to be a bit of stand off over Don Poli (4/1) though. Willie wants to run him in the 4 miler, (which would give Patrick an outstanding chance of winning that race again,) and Gigginstown want to run him in the RSA. A few weeks ago the exchanges had been indicating that Gigginstown were winning the argument, but it’s not so clear now.
The fact that the same connections Valseur Lido looked to get done for toe by Apache Stronghold over 2m5f last time, supports Willie’s theory that Valseur Lido is an RSA horse. I think its 50:50 where Don Poli runs – he’s 7/2 NRNB and I don’t think he’ll be much shorter on the day, (and if Coneygree lines up against him I think he’ll be bigger). He’s the classic horse to avoid based on stats – he’s had only 2 chase runs, (Florida Pearl in 1998, also trained by Mullins, was the last to win off just 2 chase runs,) and he hasn’t run in the calendar year, unlike the last 50 winners.
Kings Palace (5/1) is the horse that would benefit most from Coneygree’s absence as he seems much better when allowed to dominate. Both times he’s been taken on for the lead, (a novice hurdle and the Albert Bartlett,) he’s fallen. Whilst he’s beaten the same horse, (Sausalito Sunrise,) twice, I suspect that’s strong form, (his other win was at 2/13 in a match.) He’s looked a good jumper in the main but this is a tough race and I’m not sure how tough a character he is. I still want to take him on.
The Young Master (10/1) is another horse where owner and trainer have been in battle over whether to go for the RSA or the 4 miler. In his case the owner seems to be winning the argument, meaning he’ll line up here. His Ascot win off 144 is solid form, but he was getting 16lb more from Houblon Des Obeaux than Coneygree was, and had to work harder to beat him. Whilst he has valuable experience in competitive handicaps, he’s been off since mid-December so has one of the same stats against him as Don Poli. The experience he’s got makes that less of a concern, but logic suggests that novice chasers need recent match practice before a race like this. I’m not sure he’s quite good enough.
Southfield Theatre (10/1) was a 150 rated hurdler, just getting touched off in the Pertemps Final of 147 last season. He’s taken well to fences, winning 3 out of 4, and he stays really well. The form of his 2 wins in the autumn hasn’t worked out though, and he was disappointing when turned over by Carraig Mor, (who’s disappointed since,) on softer ground at Newbury. He regained the winning thread over an inadequate 2m3½f at Exeter recently, beating Melodic Rendezvous – but he looked likely to have been beaten had Val De Law not fallen at the last. 3m on a sound surface should suit him much better, but I think something will improve past him.
There are then a lot of doubtful runners in the market. 25/1 shots Apache Stronghold and Vautour head for the JLT. Philip Hobbs was really bullish about Sausalito Sunrise (25/1) at the start of the season, and he must be disappointed that he’s only won 1 of his 4 starts. He was entered for Saturday’s BetBright Cup and, rated 145, he might be better off in the open 3m handicap on the opening day. Hobbs also has If In Doubt (33/1) who put in an extraordinary performance to win the Great Yorkshire off 139, hardly jumping a fence. He’s clearly got plenty of ability but he’d have to jump a lot better to feature in an RSA.
Very Wood (20/1) and Wounded Warrior (33/1) are both owned by Gigginstown. I was unpleasantly surprised when Noel Meade suggested that Albert Bartlett winner Very Wood might go for the 4 miler and the much less battle hardened Wounded Warrior might now come back in trip for the RSA. I wouldn’t fancy Wounded Warrior nearly as much in this much tougher race – he’d be much better served by the calmer waters of the 4 miler.
That all points pretty clearly to another Gigginstown horse, Valseur Lido (12/1) being the smart play here. I’d doubted his stamina before his last run, but he looked to get done for toe by Apache Stronghold in the Grade 1 Flogas over 2m5f at Leopardstown last time, just staying on in the manner of a horse that would be ideally suited by 3m.
That 2m5f is the furthest he’s run over, so you’re taking his stamina on trust and he looks to enjoy some cut in the ground. However, the Flogas has been the best trial, producing 4 of the last 6 RSA winners - Cooldine and Bostons Angel did the double and Weapon’s Amnesty and Lord Windermere won the RSA after finishing 2nd and 3rd in the Flogas. Lord Windermere hadn’t raced beyond 2m5f and Cooldine hadn’t run under rules beyond 2m6f, so unproven stamina isn’t necessarily a negative here.
Valseur Lido’s Drinmore win in November was an excellent performance and, having been off since, he might have needed the run a little last time. The vibes from Willie Mullins about the horse are really strong and if he does run, it probably knocks Don Poli into the 4 miler, which would significantly enhance his chances. With Coneygree likely to go for the Gold Cup, I can see Valseur Lido challenging Kings Palace for favouritism on the day. (In the unlikely event that Don Poli runs too, it might mean that Ruby Walsh would ride Valseur Lido, if Bryan Cooper chooses Don Poli.)
There’s plenty of water to flow under the bridge before targets are finalised for the Mullins horses, but Valseur Lido is 10/1 NRNB with Boylesports. I can’t see him being more than half that price if he lines up and I’m going to rely on his class, and trust Willie that stamina and ground concerns are unfounded.
If there is a star that’s going to run in this, that will go on to win King Georges and Gold Cups, I think its Valseur Lido. When push comes to shove Willie tends to get his own way - I think that will happen again and Valseur Lido will run in the RSA.
1pt Valseur Lido to win the RSA Chase @ 10/1 (NRNB)